Self-Defense-June 19, 2009

Dear Council Members,

I hope you are all having a restful and relaxing summer.  Even though I
have had conflicts which have caused me to miss the last couple of
Council meetings, I continue to follow developments in our community
through the media and I am as committed as ever to keeping our Town a
great place to live.

Let me begin by thanking you for holding the line on the Town budget and
avoiding a tax increase.  In a year when the economy is in deep
recession and properties are being reappraised by the county (leading to
a de facto tax increase for some citizens) it is more important than
ever for local government to live within its means.  You are to be
commended for tightening the Town’s belt rather than imposing a tax
increase on residents who would have a very difficult time coming up
with the money.

I would also like to thank you for asking the Planning Commission to
review the SROZ zoning put in place by your predecessors several years
ago.  There are good reasons why those council members were recalled.
One is the existence of the SROZ itself, but the second and more
important reason was the arrogant dismissal of the views of their
constituents on the part of those elected officials.  I trust you will
not fall into the same trap.

With that in mind, I would like to share with you my opinion on the bill
recently enacted by our General Assembly in Nashville regarding the
legalization of handgun carry by permit holders in state and local
parks.  Specifically, I strongly urge you not to exercise the “opt out”
provision that (in my opinion) was unwisely included by legislators.

As one of hundreds of thousands of Tennessee Handgun Carry Permit
holders (and one of hundreds in our community), I have demonstrated my
responsibility as a gun owner by taking and passing a state-approved
safety course including classroom instruction on the law as well as a
marksmanship test on the firing range.  I have also submitted to a
criminal background check and have been found to be responsible enough
to be trusted to carry a weapon for defensive purposes in public.  If I
am responsible enough to be approved to carry a weapon in Wal-Mart,
Pruett’s, or (now) O’Charley’s or Friday’s, I feel I am equally as
responsible to carry a weapon in any of our municipal parks.

While I think Signal Mountain’s parks are among the safest anywhere, and
I never feel threatened in our community, I feel the principle of
self-defense rights for law-abiding citizens is important to uphold
everywhere.  The shootings by a crazed gunman at Virginia Tech prove
that no place, however laid-back or pastoral, is immune to violence.  It
is an obvious fact that criminals and lunatics, paying no attention to
the law, will be armed wherever they go.  The only way that sane,
law-abiding citizens can even the odds is to reserve the right to arm
themselves as a deterrent and counterbalance to those who mean us harm.
Even though I rarely, if ever, feel the need to go armed in Signal
Mountain, I often pass through our local community – parks included – on
the way to other, less safe locations.  Disarming me – or other
law-abiding citizens – is not the way to increase overall liberty or safety.

As Thomas Jefferson, the author of our Declaration of Independence and
our third President once said, “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms
… disarm only those who are neither inclined or determined to commit
crimes.  Such laws only make things worse for the assaulted and better
for the assassins; they serve to encourage than to prevent homicides,
for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed
man.”  Jefferson was joined in his sentiments by our first President,
George Washington, who said “Firearms stand next in importance to the
Constitution itself.  They are the people’s liberty teeth (and) keystone
… the rifle and the pistol are equally indispensable … more than 99%
of them [guns] by their silence indicate that they are in safe and sane
hands.  The very atmosphere of firearms everywhere restrains evil
interference [crime].  When firearms go, all goes, we need them every hour.”

I know that Hamilton County, the city of Chattanooga, and Red Bank have
unfortunately moved to ban the legal possession of firearms in their
parks.  I know it will be politically tempting to follow their lead.
However, their actions are neither wise nor in keeping with the wisdom
of our Founders.  My copy of the Constitution does not say “right to
keep and bear arms, except for local parks.”  Criminals will be armed in
public parks regardless of the law.  I strongly urge you to resist the
knee-jerk impulse to ban legal weapons carry in local parks and uphold
the letter and the spirit of the Second Amendment in our community.

If you have any questions or would like to engage in a more thorough
discussion of this issue prior to acting (or preferably not acting) on
the issue, please feel free to contact me by return e-mail or by
telephone at 423-645-5599.  If there is any other service I can perform
for our community, please know that I am always happy to serve or
participate in any way I can.

Please accept my best wishes and my sincere thanks for your service to
our community.

Best regards,

Joe Dumas

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