BY KEN LITTLE
Nearly 200 people felt strongly enough about their Second Amendment rights to attend Saturday's "Day of Resistance" rally at Gina's Family Restaurant in Greeneville.
A diverse group of men and women voiced their displeasure with politicians in Washington, D.C., and gun control legislation proposed after the December school shootings in Newtown, Conn.
The rally was sponsored by the Caney Branch Tea Party, the Greeneville Tea Party and the Greeneville 9/12 Project.
Speakers included state Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-11th, of Cosby, and U.S. Senate candidate Brenda Lenard.
Others at the meeting voiced strong opinions against proposed laws that would regulate what weapons citizens can own, and the ammunition the guns use.
"I don't advocate going out and shooting people, but I'm going to defend myself, and I'm going to defend my community," said Donna Alcorn, of Mosheim, a member of the Caney Branch Tea Party.
'BEYOND' GUN CONTROL
The Second Amendment issue is broader than just gun control, Alcorn said.
"It's the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution we're fighting for," she said.
"It says, 'We the people of the United States.' We are in control of the U.S. We're not doing it to be mean. We're going to stand up for our rights," Alcorn said.
The Second Amendment to the Constitution states: "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."
The current debate would be disturbing to the framers of the Constitution, Alcorn said.
"Our Founding Fathers are rolling over in their graves, but they're proud of you," Alcorn told the crowd. "Don't give up. Don't ever give up. Call each other. Encourage each other. Unite together."
FAISON BILL PENDING
Faison is the sponsor of a bill that would allow handgun carry permit-holders to store loaded firearms in their vehicles, regardless of where they are parked.
The Civil Justice Subcommittee of the state House of Representatives discussed the bill last week and advanced it to the full committee.
"I'm honored and encouraged to see this many people," Faison told the standing-room-only crowd.
He recalled heroic actions of the Founding Fathers and patriots in defending their rights against the British in the Revolutionary War.
"That's the kind of blood that flows in our veins," Faison said.
Faison said that two things about America stand out in comparison with other counties in the world -- property rights and gun ownership.
Faison said he doesn't want his children growing up under a European-style government that infringes on personal rights.
"I want them to grow up in the United States of America," he said.
While other states enact laws that "are taking gun freedoms away," Faison said, Tennessee lawmakers are pushing back in the other direction.
"Lord willing, my bill will pass Thursday. It passed the [state] Senate already," he said.
Five bills are pending in the General Assembly that support gun rights, Faison said. But any federal laws that are passed would override state law.
To counter any executive orders that would infringe on Second Amendment gun rights, a bill is pending in the General Assembly specifying that "no state resources" will be used to enforce new federal laws, Faison said.
CITIZENS SPEAK UP
Several people at the rally made personal observations.
"The current threat to [citizens] is not from the criminals; it's from the government," one man said.
Neil Smith, of Greeneville, also spoke up:
"I think the correct response when the federal government tries to control us is [to say], 'It's none of your damn business,'" Smith said.
Rally organizer Doug Brooks discussed gun control laws already passed or pending in other states such as California and New York.
"Gun registration equals gun confiscation, pure and simple," Brooks said.
The government should not dictate what types of weapons citizens own, he added.
"None of these measures will change what happened in Newtown," Brooks said. "Criminals don't obey laws. Do you think if a national gun registry came into being, they will register their guns?"
Elected officials need to be better informed, Brooks said.
"I believe many legislators have a serious dearth of education when it comes to the Second Amendment," he stated.
"The Second Amendment is the one thing that is standing between us and a tyrannical government. When the government fears the people, there's liberty."
U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE
Lenard, who plans to run against U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., for the Republican nomination for Senate in 2014, spoke out on behalf of gun rights.
"I have a God-given right to protect myself and protect my family and protect my home," she said.
"The right did not come from Washington, D.C., it didn't come from Tennessee, it came from God Almighty."
Lenard said it's time "to draw a line in the sand and roll up our sleeves" to protect Second Amendment rights.
"We have a battle going on, and it's a real one," she said.
The government won't be satisfied "with certain types of rifles," Lenard said.
"It won't stop there. It will [go] to all types of weapons," she said.
Lenard held up a Bible.
"Once they ban all guns, this is next," she said. "Enough is enough. I believe a government that governs least governs best."
Saturday's gathering in Greeneville was one of many "Day of Resistance" rallies across the country sponsored by the Tea Party movement.
"We need to write [Congress], we need to stand together, and we don't need to be afraid," Brooks said.
He said he was encouraged by the local turnout.
"People are really worrying that they're going to lose their Second Amendment rights," he said.