Several Bradley County citizens on Monday spoke out against a county insurance policy stating that county employees who are not law enforcement personnel will not be covered if they carry a firearm, even if they have a handgun permit.
Vice Chairman Adam Lowe said he understood the policy for employees who drove county vehicles, but he questioned its fairness for employees who drove their personal vehicles and kept firearms there.
He said, "I think it's reasonable to say if you're in a county vehicle that's county property." But he gave an example of several teachers who had to drive out of town for a work conference. He said technically they were on the county's time, but they were using their own vehicles and had their legally-owned gun in the car for protection.
He asked, "So our insurance company does not recognize the permit the state says allows someone to legally carry a firearm?"
He said that though he could "appreciate the concern of the insurance company," he was concerned this policy infringed upon personal rights.
Commissioner Terry Caywood agreed and gave another example, describing a friend and county employee who carried a small handgun in her purse because she worked late hours.
County Mayor Gary Davis said there was a process where an employee could be granted an exception to this policy by applying through the Sheriff's office. However, there were concerns that this could be political and slow.
After their discussion, a Bradley County man told the commissioners he felt the policy was "blatantly discriminating." He said, "Your county employees don't check their constitutional rights at the door when they go to work for the county."
He also told the Commission, "You have women that work for you all that have restraining orders against abusive spouses, boyfriends, or stalkers." He said this policy would force them to go unprotected.
Cleveland business owner Dan Rawls also spoke against the policy, calling it "ridiculous." He said, "The firearm training that my wife and I had was superior to what the police department went through."
Commissioner Jeff Yarber said "We need to remember, we don't work for the insurance company, the insurance company works for us."
Vice Chairman Lowe said the problem went back to the perception that lawful gun owners were a safety risk, saying there was no evidence to back this up. He said, "We're dealing with a third party that has a distorted perception."
He told everyone he would look into the issue more before the next session.
The Commission also addressed the issue of the numerous unpaved county roads. Commissioner Charlotte Peak-Jones said many roads built before 1986 had still not been paved or updated.
She said she believed it was the responsibility of the Commission to fix this problem. Commissioner Terry Caywood said he believed the road superintendant had essentially given up on the issue.