Tennessee and Armed Justice

March 2014

There are two bills that the Tennessee legislature have been considering since last year, House Bill 0902 and Senate Bill 849, which can be called the County Militia Law. I shall reprint one of them here.

SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 58, Chap
ter 1, Part 3, is amended by
adding the following as a new section:
(a) In addition to any other militia authorized by
this chapter, the county legislative body of any county may by a two-thirds vote authorize the sheriff of the county to establish a county militia as a reserve unit. The sheriff is authorized to temporarily activate the county militia in order to assist the sheriff during times of natural or other disaster, an emergency or other crisis within the county as determined by the sheriff in the sheriff’s discretion.
(b) A county militia shall be a well-regulated unit
within the county which shall temporarily assist the sheriff in maintaining the security of the county during such times of natural or other disaster, an emergency or other crisis. The sheriff shall determine the size of the county militia.
(c) Members of the county militia shall not be paid for their services.
(d) In addition to the sheriff, the adjutant generals authorized to activate any militia established by a sheriff for service in the county.
(e) Members of the county militia as well-regulated
militia established by the sheriff shall be authorized to bear arms.
SECTION 2. This act shall take effect July 1, 2013,
the public welfare requiring it.

Therefore, if the County Commission votes 2/3 for it (17 people in my county would have to say yes), the Sheriff can raise an armed militia of whatever size he wishes and be used at the sheriff’s discretion. The criteria of membership is that the sheriff picked you and even the fiscal and legal reviews do not mention that they need to be trained in any way.

At first glance, you have to ask yourself why would the sheriffs need this armed force? Doesn’t the state already have enough police, National Guard, and Emergency Management personnel? Most police departments already have auxiliary and volunteer police to add additional excellent help in times of need. In a crisis, or “at the sheriff’s discretion”, we want groups of armed people supplementing these trained groups?

The bills were sponsored by the same group of legislatures who wanted the practice of certain lawful religions criminalized in the state, and have railed that certain lawful US citizens and resident aliens have no place in Tennessee. When you throw in their desire to have all phases of ammunition production moved to the state, you begin to wonder at their motivations.

The bills have been in the State Government Subcommittee since 02/07/2013, and hopefully they will stay there or just die.

When I was a kid, we had similar groups of armed men roaming around, with “posse justice”. They didn’t always have the support of the police, and many good cops stood against them. This bill would give them legal standing. Let’s hope it never sees the light of day.


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