Oconee County’s approach to guns became solidly embedded last Saturday in the upcoming elections for the Board of Commissioners and for Sheriff.
Carol Bennett and Johnny Pritchett, both seeking the Republican nomination for Chair of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners, attended the meeting of the Oconee County Gun Coalition at the Oconee County Library and endorsed that group’s desire to declare the county a Second Amendment Sanctuary.
Ryan Anglin, founder and president of the Oconee County Gun Coalition, told the 38 people present that he had sent copies of a resolution declaring the county a Second Amendment Sanctuary County to the five members of the Board of Commissioners.
Anglin said he has asked the commissioners to put the resolution on the agenda of an upcoming meeting. He said he did not have a response, but that he would keep the members informed, and he asked them to show up to support the request when the resolution is on the agenda.
Anglin is pushing for adoption of the resolution before the May 19 primary.
John Daniell, Republican incumbent Chair of the Commission, was not at the meeting. Jimmy Williamson, retired University of Georgia police chief also seeking the Republican Party nomination for sheriff, also did not attend.
None of the four candidates seeking the Republican nomination for the two Board of Commissioners posts on the ballot this year were in attendance, though John Caudill, husband of candidate Maria Caudill, was in the library parking lot passing out campaign signs while the meeting was taking place.
Caudill is running for Post 4 on the Commission. Incumbent Mark Saxon also is seeking the Republican Party nomination.
Jonathan Laster is challenging incumbent Mark Thomas for the Republican nomination for Post 1.
Eric Gisler, who has qualified for the Democratic nomination for Board of Commissioners Chair and has no Democratic opposition, also did not attend.
Gisler is co-chair of the local Democratic Party, and co-chair Melissa Hopkinson told the Board of Commissioners at its March 3 meeting that the Democratic Committee is opposed to the proposed Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution.
No Democrats qualified for Commission Post 1 or 4.
No other candidate seeking election in the May 19 elections was in the audience on Saturday, though retiring Probate Court Judge David Anglin, father of Ryan Anglin, was there.
Anglin made some efforts to play down the political nature of the meeting, saying at one point that “This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. It’s a constitutional issue.”
The meeting ran just less than 70 minutes and was at the Oconee County Library on Experiment Station Road in Watkinsville.
Anglin was responding to a member of the audience who said “I don’t know that we ought to just say nobody but Republicans because we could have some Democrat friends that love to shoot as much as we do and feel the same way.”
Anglin did say the resolution he presented to the Board of Commissioners was given to him by Steven Strickland, chair of the Oconee County Republican Party.
Mike Denham, vice chair of the Oconee County Republican Party, was given a chance to speak to the group and said he was asked to attend the meeting by Strickland.
Denham also said that the Oconee County Republican Party would take up a Second Amendment resolution at its convention on March 21.
Anglin closed out the meeting by saying he would announce the group’s next meeting on its Facebook page, asked those present to give their email addresses if they wanted to be contacted, and shouted “Vote for James Hale for Sheriff.”
Concern About Timing
Former state Rep. Chuck Williams, now director of the Georgia Forestry Commission, had a cautionary warning for the group.
|Williams Addressing Bennett|
“We do have county elections coming up,” Williams said. “I would just ask us to think about if the BOC does not deal with this issue before the primary, then we will have, based on who’s qualified now, we will have a Republican BOC Chairman facing off at least against one Democrat.”
“I would submit to this group, give deep thought to, if the current BOC does not deal with this issue during their term, that this group step back between the primary and November and let the process play out,” Williams said.
“Because I think that whoever the nominee is, whether it’s the incumbent or these two individuals,” Williams said, referring to Bennett and Pritchett, “if they find themselves as the Republican nominee in November and this issue is still a hot button issue, I think the corner that they could be painted in might be a corner where we might could find ourselves electing a Democratic BOC Chairman.
“I think this issue has the potential to almost take over some elections in this county,” Williams continued, “And I’m not scared of anything. I’m not scared of anybody when it comes to running. Good people will do the right thing.
“But I’ll just ask us to think about that and again if, the BOC doesn’t address it by the time of the May primary, maybe we should reassess our timing,” Williams said. “Let the election process play out, and then in January, whoever the new Commission is, take it back up then.”
Bennett And Pritchett
Bennett spoke up near the end of the meeting, just before Williams made his comment.
“As you present this and our current Commission body says ‘no’,” Bennett asked Anglin, “can we revisit this in January of 2021 with hopefully a new slate and a chair--that is me--supportive of it?”
“Oh wow. I’m glad to hear that. Absolutely,” Anglin said.
“Can I go ahead and say something?” Pritchett asked, following Bennett. “I’m also a candidate for the BOC Chairman.
“I believe in the second amendment,” Pritchett said. “Always have. I came today. I was invited.
“But I came today to find out, basically I haven’t seen the petition or the resolution to make it a Second Amendment Sanctuary County and I’d like to see it and read it,” Pritchett said.
“I’d like to have a copy of it and read it. I’m sure I can go along with it if elected because of my background,” he added.
“When elected Chairman, bring it back if it doesn’t go through now,” he said. “It will go through. I believe in it.”
Daniell And Meeting
Anglin told me in an email today that he did not invite any anyone running for office to the meeting.
Details of the meeting were on the Facebook page of the Coalition, and I wrote about the meeting in earlier posts, though I did have the meeting starting at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, rather than 10:15 a.m. (I apologize for the error.)
“I did not recall a specific invitation to the meeting last week,” Daniell told me, also in an email message today.
“I believe I would be welcome to attend any of their meetings,” Daniell wrote, “and my schedule would not have allowed me to attend the last meeting.”
Anglin On Endorsement
At the beginning of the meeting on Saturday, Anglin said he started Oconee County Gun Coalition in early spring of 2019.
“The last governor’s election that we had was a scare,” he said. “I would say it kind of alarmed a lot of Second Amendment advocates. We had a far-left governor, or someone who was running for governor, Stacey Abrams.
“The pressure was put on the state in a way we really hadn’t seen before with far-left legislation,” he continued. “And so we wanted to do something in our county and promote the Second Amendment and rally people together who are like minded for that cause.”
Anglin said he drafted a questionnaire and submitted it to the two Sheriff candidates.
Through what he called a “collective” decision by himself and his two “administrators,” Joseph Berryman and John Westman, “We did endorse Capt. James Hale.”
“We felt very strongly about that,” he said. “There was really no discussion about that at all.”
Anglin Discussion of Resolution
“I want you guys to know that we have submitted our resolution to the Oconee County Board of Commissioners,” Anglin continued. About 130 people have signed a petition in support of that resolution, he added.
Anglin said at the March 3 meeting of the Board of Commissioners “We were met, I’m sure they were spying our page, but we were met with a far left liberal group, Moms Demand Action, and Oconee Democrats were there.”
“And now we’ve emailed them all copies,” Anglin said of the commissioners, “and we’ll check back with them next week and answer any questions they have in hopes that they will put it on the agenda asap.
“And we’ll let you know the agenda date so we can many people there to support what we’re trying to do,” he said.
Anglin said in his email message today “I sent an email to the commissioners clarifying our position and rebutting the some of the oppositions remarks. That was early this week. I have not heard back from them.”
Daniell told me in his email message today “I did receive an email from Ryan on Monday and have attached that email.” He attached a lengthy email from Anglin dated March 9 that included the language of the resolution.
“We have not compiled the draft agenda for our next meeting,” Daniell said, referring to the Agenda Setting meeting on March 31, “and I do not anticipate the resolution being on that agenda.”
The Board’s next regular meeting is on April 7.
“I think the thing that bothers me more than the fact that I wasn’t aware of you more than two months ago is that, when you did speak a couple of weeks ago, there wasn’t a politician in the auditorium that had ever heard of this,” Denham from the Oconee County Republic Committee said when he was invited to speak.
|Denham From Oconee County Republican Party|
Denham was referring to Anglin’s presentation as an invited speaker at the Feb. 24 meeting of the Oconee County Republican Party.
“Yet you go speak before the Board and there’s a Democrat contingent that was well aware of it,” Denham said.
“So that tells me probably more than I need to know about this,” he continued.
“Whether it’s the current County Commission or whatever, if they’re not educated on this, why are they not?” Denham asked.
“And, in my opinion, they should be taking a stand,” he continued. “And it might get dirty, it might get ugly, but who else?”
The featured speaker at the Saturday meeting was Tom McElwaine of Shooters Den, 1040 Turkey Industrial Boulevard, Watkinsville.
McElwaine described his 10-year-old business, which restores, builds and sells guns, as “a Christian-centered business and a family business.”
“We do support this group,” McElwaine. “We’ll do whatever we can to help this group. Of course, we are quite an advocate for gun rights. Over the years we notice that there’s been a chiseling away of rights.
“Various people have come in the shop and opposed the rights to buy guns and stuff,” McElwaine said. “We don’t welcome those people. We only welcome people who support the Second Amendment.
“We try not to get too political,” he said. “It is hard not to do in this business. And everybody’s got a right to a firearm regardless of our party affiliation.”
McElwaine spoke for more than 25 minutes, and he devoted much of that time–just less than nine minutes–to his objections to a proposed revision in the federal Alcohol Tobacco Firearms (ATF) Form 4473 for firearms transactions.
|McElwayne With ATF Draft Form|
There was a strong reaction, supportive reaction to his comments, and he spent another four minutes responding to those comments.
“I don’t know why these changes are taking place,” McElwaine said. “I see nothing about these changes that will stop any kind of gun crime. All it’s going to do is just interfere with lawful gun owners.
“It’s just something else to chisel away,” McElwaine said. “Every time they change the form, it’s not to the benefit of the gun owner. It’s always to the detriment.”
Several years ago a person could buy seven firearms at a time using the same form, he said, then it went down to down to four, “now it’s down to three.”
Designaton Of Sex
“Some of the changes to this form that I take particular exception to, and I’m trying not to be too politically incorrect here,” McElwaine said, “but, on the form, like most government forms, it says sex, male or female. Well, now we’ve got male, female or nonbinary.”
“The problem I have is that ATF tells me the dealer’s the last line of defense that somebody’s buying a firearm that shouldn’t really have a firearm that you notice that something’s not quite right, I can’t sell them a firearm,” McElwaine said.
“Now I’m not trying to get into a discussion we don’t need to get into here,” McElwaine said, “but if somebody checks nonbinary, then I question whether that person needs to walk out of my shop with a firearm.”
“Amen to that,” someone in the audience yelled out.
McElwaine also objected to a revision of the question on citizenship and to a question on ethnicity, which a comparison of the existing and proposed form shows is not changing.
“They’re setting dealers up to fail is what’s happening,” McElwaine said. “That’s exactly what’s going on here.”
McElwaine asked those in the audience to “Contact your legislators. Let them know, we don’t need to be changing this form like that and especially this nonbinary question.”
“I’m telling you that if you’re nonbinary and you feel like you can’t check one or the other,” McElwaine said, “you’re trying to create an issue with me, and now I have to question whether or not you walk out of that shop with a firearm.”
Grew Up In Eastville
Westman, one of the administrators for the Oconee County Gun Coalition, served as moderator for the Saturday meeting, and he introduced Patrick Whitehead, who said he grew up in the Eastville community at the intersection of Malcom Bridge Road and Hodges Mill Road.
|Whitehead With Speech|
“For thousands of years men, and yes, even women, have defended their borders, families, livestock with weapons of various designs,” Whitehead said, reading from a prepared text, “from swords and shields and bows and arrows and even the famous returning boomerang to take down game or remove an invader’s eye.
“We have had weapons,” he said. “Eventually these weapons have evolved into firearms, thanks to the Chinese and their invention of explosive powder.”
“The right to keep and bear arms to defend ourselves from a tyrannical government was installed into our newly written Constitution along with many other God-given rights,” Whitehead said.
“These rights have to be defended at all costs or our hard-earned Republic will fall,” according to Whitehead. “I ask how else can our rights be defended without the Second Amendment that is written into our very Constitution?”
“Many liberals are trying to take away our Second Amendment rights,” Whitehead said. “Ask yourself why? What is their next move once we are disarmed?
“It won’t come in one mass gun confiscation,” he continued. “It’s going to be a slow erosion of rights, taking away a bump stock here, a high capacity magazine there, until the whole things is gone.”
Anglin Odds And Ends
Anglin spoke at various breaks in the program, as did Westman and, to a lesser extent, Berryman.
|Westman, Anglin, Berryman Recognizing Bennett|
“I don’t want my grandchildren to open a book,” Anglin said, “and my great-grandchildren and read about liberty, freedom and history in a history book. I want them to be able to experience that for themselves. Be able to defend themselves.”
“We’ve got more guns per capita, per household in the United States of American than any other country in the world and it’s not even close,” Anglin told the group. “And if you think you’re going to criminalize law-abiding citizens, and you’re to fix gun control issues doing it, you’re in for a rude awakening. It’s just not going to work.”
“I’ll give them this,” Anglin said of opponents at the meeting at the Board of Commissioners. “The Democratic folks that came the other night, they were very intelligent people, very poised. They hold their selves together well. Speak well. They knew some of their stuff.”
Anglin said he was not blaming the opponents at the meeting, but someone put screws on his driveway after it.
“The people who did come up and speak in opposition to us, a few of them were educators in this county,” Westman said. “They were very, they weren’t illiterate people. They were smart people. They were aware of what we’re doing. And they have their thoughts about it.”
“Bad people, they don’t carry guns,” Berryman said opponents at the Board of Commissioners meeting argued.
“The thing is, bad people already carry,” he said. “That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing. It doesn’t matter if they go to a gun store or if they buy a gun off the street. They have a gun. They can get to them.”
The video below is of the March 7 meeting of the Oconee County Gun Coalition.
Anglin spoke just after the meeting began about the submission of the resolution to declare Oconee County a Second Amendment Gun Sanctuary.
Westman introduced Denham at 5:05 in the video.
Westman introduced the featured speaker McElwayne at 9:03 in the video.
Whitehead made his comments at 44:54.
Bennett raised her hand to be recognized at 54:44 in the video.
Pritchett follows Bennett at 56:17.
Williams made his comments at 58:04.