UPDATE: Sullivan County commissioner rails against tighter gun laws in wake of Conn. shooting

J. H. Osborne • Dec 17, 2012 at 10:19 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — School principals should be required to go armed at all times while on the job and people with gun permits should be able to legally carry them in more public places, a Sullivan County commissioner said Monday.

“Thank God for guns.” said Commissioner Baxter Hood, addressing the full County Commission regarding the massacre of schoolchildren, teachers and administrators at a K-4 school in Connecticut three days before.

“No one was armed,” Hood said of the victims. “The outcome probably would have been vastly different.”

Baxter said gun-control laws are not the answer.

“Twenty little children are dead and a bunch of people, the mass media, talk shows and columnists who need to fill time and spaces are arguing about gun laws,” Baxter said. “This is infuriating to me because there is no gun law that could have stopped this.”

Hood said anti-drug laws have not stopped drug use, DUI laws don’t prevent drunk driving, and gun control laws will not keep bad guys from getting and using guns.

Hood said the answer is for more of the public to go armed — including in schools and other public buildings such as the Sullivan County Courthouse. Signs are posted at courthouse entrances citing state law that prohibits weapons possession by anyone but law enforcement personnel.

Hood told the Times-News later that he is against the signs being posted there.

“I don’t think that’s a mandated sign,” Hood said later Monday. “I think it was contention between the sheriff and the mayor.”

Hood said he agrees it is state law that weapons are not permitted in the courthouse, but he does not agree with the concept of the law.

“I think honorable citizens who have gun carry permits and concealed weapon permits and so forth should be able to bring guns into places such as the courthouse,” Hood said.

When speaking to the commission early in the day, Hood said “Does anyone think these ‘no guns’ signs on the courthouse would stop a bad guy from coming in here? Why would anyone in their right mind try to stop people from being able to protect themselves?”

The United States hasn’t been invaded for centuries because the general population is armed, Hood said, and in a public crowd locally he knows he’s in the midst of people “packing heat.”

“If we are going to be protected, we must have these people in all public venues,” Hood said. “We need to come to realize we are not safe any place, friends, and we need to protect ourselves.”

Hood said “our society is breeding more sociopathic behavior,” which he attributed to broken or dysfunctional homes, “the lost war on poverty” and “our entitlement society.”

Hood said he was not speaking in support, especially, of putting more school resource officers (SROs) in local schools through the sheriff’s department.

Hood said it should be a qualification for all school principals to be highly trained to use a firearm under high pressure, and they should be required to go armed at all times while on the job.

Hood said he knows state law does not allow that.

In an initial online story, the Times-News reported that when he finished speaking, “not everyone joined in, but Hood drew a round of applause for his comments.”

Hood took issue with that sentence when he contacted the Times-News later in the day.

Hood said it was not unanimous, but he perceived it to have been “rousing applause” and that a dozen people gave him supportive comments afterward.

Though the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office declined to respond specifically to Hood’s statements when contacted Monday afternoon by the Times-News, Public Information Officer Leslie Earhart reiterated Sheriff Wayne Anderson’s longtime stance that full-time school resource officers are needed at each school.

There are currently four full-time school resource officers assigned to the county’s four high schools.

They respond to middle and elementary facilities on an at-need basis.

Anderson has repeatedly requested funding to expand full-time resource officers into all facilities, but those requests have been denied. The sheriff’s office contends law enforcement personnel — who undergo regular training on how to handle active shooter situations — are the logical deterrent and response to potentially tragic scenarios in schools.

In August 2010, such an event unfolded at Sullivan Central High School in Blountville. Thomas Richard Cowan, 62, entered the facility after morning classes had begun, armed with two handguns. A standoff ensued in the lobby area between Cowan and School Resource Officer Carolyn Gudger, both of whom had weapons drawn.

As police responded to the scene, Gudger continued speaking with Cowan, who refused to relinquish his weapon. When other officers entered the school, Cowan reportedly pointed his gun in their direction, then back at Gudger, prompting police to open fire.

Cowan’s fatal injuries were the only incurred in the incident. Meanwhile, Gudger’s actions as school resource officer, containing the situation as other officers responded, were praised for protecting Sullivan Central students and staff.

Times-News Staff Writer Rain Smith contributed to this report.

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