Governor Bill Lee has just appointed Jordan Mollenhour of Knoxville to the State Board of Education, the governing and policy-making body for Tennessee’s Pre-K-12 public education system – which through partnership with the TN Department of Education maintains oversight in K-12 implementation and academic standards.
According to Knox TN Today:
“Mollenhour is co-CEO of Mollenhour Gross LLC, an investment company based in Knoxville. He will represent the Second Congressional District… Mollenhour’s term of service is for five years….”
What the article does not mention is Mollenhour’s very concerning history as an online ammunition dealer, owning an online company with an obscure ownership trail that according to the St. Louis Dispatch sold thousands of bullets to at least one mass shooter.
In a 2014 article called “HOW THE AURORA SHOOTER GOT HIS AMMO” by Todd Frankel, then of the St. Louis Dispatch, Frankel follows the trail of the sale of the bullets used in the murder of 12 people and the injuring of 58 others in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater all the way to Knoxville, and then on to Atlanta.
The article reads:
“The answer appeared to be an online company in St. Louis… but the trail leads not to St. Louis but to Knoxville, TN, and on to Atlanta, to a secretive company considered to be among the nation’s top online ammunition dealers. It’s founders – a pair of former real estate developers – sell bullets using far-flung P.O. Boxes, different corporate entities, and online marketing tactics that have offended even some firearm enthusiasts. By last summer, these entrepreneurs stood perfectly positioned to close on a quick, legal sale to a deranged killer.”
Those “former real estate developers” were Jordan Mollenhour and his partner Dustin Gross. Both are University of Tennessee graduates. Governor Lee has just appointed Mollenhour to the Board of Education.
According to the article, their company was called www.BulkAmmo.com, and operated under the names www.luckygunner.com, www.ammoforsale.com, and others. In the article Frankel tracks their web of corporations and business names to a distributor in Atlanta, but he’s never able to contact them for comment.
Frankel also summarizes the history of the ammo business in America, pointing out that it wasn’t always possible to order thousands of bullets online and have them show up to your door no questions asked, but that a piece of legislation in 1986 changed it so that they could.
Maybe Chris Rock is right – If gun control is impossible to pass in our messed up, gun-sick nation – maybe restricting the ammo is what we should be focusing on? But in the meantime it seems fair to ask why Governor Lee is appointing someone with a sordid past that includes enabling at least one mass shooting in Colorado to a board of education overseeing what our kids learn.
Selling thousands of bullets online to a mass killer wasn’t illegal, but it probably should be, and at the very least we shouldn’t be putting people who think it’s ok to make a living doing that in charge of our children’s education.
It’s worth noting that this isn’t Lee’s only questionable education appointment – Lee and Speaker Sexton just also recently appointed anti-Muslim 9/11 Truther Laurie Cardoza-Moore to the textbook commission.
Extremism at the highest levels of Tennessee’s government is on full display. And it’s our kids who will suffer.
WATCH: “Did you think you’d get this far being a 9/11 TRUTHER and as ANTI-MUSLIM as you are? What’s the MASTER PLAN, Laurie?”
— The Tennessee Holler (@TheTNHoller) April 10, 2021
Growing up in the south, I got pretty used to guns. They were in the movies I watched, the games I played, and members of my family were not shy about their ownership. Honestly, I’d never feared guns before March 2nd, 2005. Mostly because I had been told they would be the only thing standing between me and a bad guy.
But on March 2nd, the bad guy was the one with the gun. On that day, my bus driver, Joyce Gregory, was murdered in front of me, my little brother, and 22 other students in grades from Kindergarten to Senior. It was a smaller county with one school and the bus driver had a lot on her hands, trying to deal with students of all ages. One day, she made the fatal mistake of giving a sophomore student a write-up for some form of smokeless tobacco.
I remember that. We were near the center of the small town square in Dover, TN. Mrs. Joyce was not happy, as she had previously gotten onto the students in the back for “dipping” on the bus. If I remember correctly, we pulled over on Main St. near where the Stewart County Clerk is now. She gave at least one student a write-up, which apparently got him in trouble with the school. I was 7 and didn’t care, because it seemed so small when the bigger kids were always getting in trouble for something.
It was either the next day or shortly after that I had gotten on the bus like every other day. Dew on the grass tickled my legs as I waited at some time near 5:45. Within 30 minutes we had pulled up to the house of Jason Clinard.
This is where my memory gets fuzzy. I remember pulling up to the gravel driveway where I heard Mrs. Joyce managed to get out “Good Morn-” and then it went fuzzy for about 20 seconds. I heard 3 gunshots and when I came out of hiding I looked around and didn’t see anything at first.
But what I did see has been burned into my brain. What’s amazing is that the shooter immediately ran and never saw what he did. He never saw what my brother and I had to see in front of us. At 7 years old I watched a woman’s life violently drain from her eyes, blood drip from her lips as she used the last of her strength to shut the door between the killer and us. As she slumped in her chair, she looked up in the mirror and I swear I saw the life leave her eyes. There has not been an instance of gun violence since where I haven’t been reminded of her face.
After Mrs. Joyce had passed on, her foot came off of the brake. The bus began rolling down a hill and was it not for one high schooler, we likely would have crashed into some woods in rural Stewart County. Luckily we hit a telephone pole and ran into an old couple’s house once we climbed out of the back of the bus. An hour or two later we were home safe, sound, and set up for a life of paranoia.
The kid had access to an unlocked nightstand where his father kept a .45. As someone who had clearly exhibited a history of mental health issues in a foster home environment, that gun should have been locked away from any children. Jason Clinard killed a woman because he was severely ill and had access to an unrestricted firearm.
I don’t like to tell this story, being so macabre. However, gun de-regulation, such as permitless carry, will only lead to new generations of traumatized youth like I was. Kids will continue to see people they look up to bleed and die until we get serious about gun reform. Who has to die at the hands of a mentally ill adult?
To Governor Bill Lee, I mainly just have questions. Do you think that mentally ill teenagers, convicted felons, and the mean-spirited should be allowed to carry guns anywhere they please? If the answer is yes, then I have one follow-up. Who do YOU have to watch die before you start caring about the lives and safety of the people in this great state?
Joyce Gregory was always so nice to all the kids. Stewart County was never that populated and she would help out with the local Boy Scouts. This woman was a grandmother, a wife, an aunt, and so important to so many people. She mattered, may she rest.
“These are the same legislators who are proposing bills that allow people to have FULL CONTROL over the FIREARMS they own.” Tory Mills of Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood on the hypocrisy of Sen Mark Pody and Jerry Sexton’s bill that allows men to sue women for having an abortion.
“Let’s not channel MLK, who was about nonviolence, in the same sentence as a rally for WEAPONS OF DEATH.”
Rep. Antonio Parkinson & Rep. Mitchell respond as GOP Caucus leader Jeremy Faison invokes MLK & calls AR-15’s “weapons of LIFE” as he honors Richmond’s anti-gun safety law rally.
Rep. Larry Miller was also booed, in a break from House decorum.
And Rep. Andy Holt outrageously wondered why we don’t see guns being a problem with 393 million of them in circulation in the USA.
Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) is hosting a “Hogfest and Turkey Shoot” campaign fundraiser at his home this Saturday, and has announced he will be giving away an AR-15 Assault Rifle – the weapon used in tragedy after tragedy in America – as a “door prize”… but is it legal?
That Holt would give away a weapon that even NASCAR won’t feature in ads anymore despite the message it sends to those concerned about the gun death crisis in America should come as no surprise – he is after all the sponsor of a recent bill to weaken our permitting system in Tennessee to make it possible for people to get a permit to carry virtually anywhere in our state without ever actually firing one on a range, simply by taking a quick online class.
But is his giveaway actually legal? It would appear the answer is no.
The Secretary of State’s website is very clear: Raffles like the one described in Holt’s event – where people pay to get in, and are entered to win a prize – are considered gambling in Tennessee. While it may not be exactly like slots or poker which casinos such as this is story offer, the base mechanics are the same. Paying in an amount of money for the chance to get something back. Residents of Tenessee can go out of state to gamble, but inside the state, gambling is not permitted by any organization that isn’t a charity and hasn’t been pre-approved. Again, residents can perhaps use a site like Paybyphonebillcasino.uk as it operates outside the state but people within the State can’t set up gambling or gambling-adjacent options without risking the brunt of the law.
From the Secretary of State’s site:
Raffles and games of chance are considered gambling, which is prohibited in Tennessee. However, certain charitable organizations are allowed to apply to have one raffle, reverse raffle, cakewalk or cakewheel each year if that event is conducted in accordance with the procedures set forth in the Tennessee Charitable Gaming Implementation Law. This is why many people would look to the speedy casino cashouts hosted online for their gambling fix instead of set institutions.
Only a qualified 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(19) organization that has submitted an application to the Division of Charitable Solicitations and Gaming and that has been approved by the Tennessee General Assembly can hold a raffle.
When asked about this on Twitter, Holt responded that the AR-15 was a “doorprize”:
It’s a doorprize…ðŸ˜‰
– Andy Holt (@AndyHolt4TN) September 13, 2019
But the SOS site makes no exception for such semantic arguments. What Holt describes in his event post is pretty clearly not allowed by law.
Again, from the SOS site:
No. An event is considered a raffle if someone must pay for a chance to win a prize and would be a violation of law. It does not matter that the payment is called a “donation.”
When asked if he had applied and been approved, Holt gave no answer.
You submitted your request under state law, right?
“Only a qualified 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(19) organization that has submitted an application to the Division of Charitable Solicitations and Gaming and that has been approved by the Tennessee General Assembly can hold a raffle.”
– Brook Jolley (@Brookjolley) September 14, 2019
There is even a question on the site itself about exceptions for political campaigns, to which the answer is very clearly also a resounding NO:
Are political candidates and campaigns allowed to conduct raffles or other games of chance?
No. The law only allows qualified 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(19) organizations to hold gaming events. Political candidates and campaigns for public office are not considered 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(19) tax exempt organizations… If someone is required to pay for a chance to win a prize, it is considered a raffle. Only qualified and approved 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(19) organizations may hold a raffle. It does not matter that the payment is called a “donation.”
As for the consequences, the site has this to say:
If the Division of Charitable Solicitations is notified of an unapproved event, the Division will notify the local district attorney general. Conducting an unapproved game of chance may be a violation of the criminal gaming statute, and local law enforcement has jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute the individuals responsible for the event… Please contact the district attorney for the county in which you believe the game of chance is taking place or contact the Division of Charitable Solicitations at (615) 741-2555 and the Division will notify the appropriate authorities.
In this case, the District Attorney to holler at would be Tommy Thomas: (731) 364-5513
And here’s how to holler at the Division of Charitable Donations: (615) 741-2555 & firstname.lastname@example.org
In an interview this week, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann made it clear he won’t back any common sense gun safety regulations as he spouted NRA talking points. Fleischmann has an A-rating from the NRA and as Ramsey Cohen says “Has taken thousands of dollars from them in the past”.
Watch and share the video below, and holler at Chuck HERE.
NEW: “I think there are enough laws on the books dealing with guns.”@RepChuck Fleischmann won’t support magazine size limits, universal background checks, etc. – instead spouts NRA talking points.
— The Tennessee Holler (@TheTNHoller) September 5, 2019
In a week in which America was yet again rocked by gun violence, newly minted Tennessee House Republican Party caucus chair Rep. Jeremy Faison has taken to Twitter to minimize the problem of gun deaths in America, using misstated facts to do it.
“Gun-related deaths are no where even close to the problem that liberals make them out to be,” Faison told a commenter:
Faison’s tweet came as a reply to a response to an earlier tweet where he had posted “pesky facts” above a post from @RealSaavedra, who listed other causes of death in America on a per day basis, including abortion, heart disease, cancer and more.
It’s a familiar talking point in anti-gun safety law conservative circles:
Faison keyed in on the “All Rifles” item at the bottom, which makes the point that only 1 American dies each day by rifle on average.
What this widely circulated statistic obviously and intentionally leaves out is all the deaths and shootings caused by non-rifles. In actuality, Every day, 100 Americans are killed with guns and hundreds more are shot and injured. Over 100,000 Americans are shot on average each year, far more than other countries – which means Faison turning the stat for “rifle deaths” into “gun-related deaths” in his follow-up tweet was either intentionally misleading, or yet another big mistake on Faison’s part.
It wouldn’t be the first flub from Faison in which he made up his own gun-related *fact* to help prove his ultimate point, which is apparently that that guns in America are really no big deal.
This past session Faison was on a committee that passed a gun permit-weakening bill which made it possible for Tennesseans to get a permit to carry a gun nearly everywhere in the state simply by taking a quick course online, without ever even having to fire one on a range. In addition to online courses, they could read blogs about such topics as 300 blk vs 5.56 NATO, which might be relevant for learning about the different types of ammo used for different guns, helping form a better understanding of gun use.
After fact-filled, emotional testimony from witnesses including Beth Joslin Roth of the Safe Tennessee Project, who demonstrated clearly that stronger gun laws do in fact save lives, Faison confidently informed Beth that despite all the numbers she presented to the contrary tighter gun laws don’t lead to fewer gun deaths – because if they did, the Bahamas wouldn’t have so many homicides, since according to Faison you can get the death penalty for illegally carrying a gun there.
As it turned out, we looked into it, and that *fact* was not true. Nobody has been put to death in the Bahamas in many years, and certainly not for having a gun.
Where had Jeremy heard this, you might ask? According to him, he heard it from a “Bohemian” he knew in college. (He meant Bahamian. Sigh.)
To his minimal credit, he apologized and retracted his *fact*. But for a man who sits on a committee that makes laws in Tennessee to be presenting false information that was so loosely sourced is a pretty devastating indictment not only of Faison, but of the level of accountability GOP Supermajority lawmakers are currently facing in Tennessee.
Inevitably, that permit-weakening law passed, and Faison has since been elected chair of the TN GOP caucus. But one thing hasn’t changed: Faison is still making up *facts* about guns to minimize a very real, very tragic problem, which makes all of us, and our children, much less safe.
Again, studies of the issue in general have shown repeatedly there is a relationship between stricter gun laws and a lower amount of guns, and gun deaths. Even Justice Scalia said you can support the 2nd Amendment while still supporting some common-sense gun safety laws. Moreover, more people need to understand gun safety and gun laws as it appears that not everyone does. For example, the gun laws for Wisconsin residents aren’t the same for Tennessee residents. Therefore people have to look up and understand those laws too, especially if they are planning on taking a gun out of their state. It is just one of the many factors one must consider before buying a gun, others being the intended use and if you are prepared to use them safely (more info here).
If you have a problem with state legislators putting out false information about serious issues like gun safety, then make sure they hear it. Holler at Faison HERE.
Coffee County Republican chairman Richard Brooks has posted – and now deleted – a meme on Facebook threatening “civil war” and to “hang corrupted politicians in front of the White House” if any politicians continue to talk about gun control.
Coffee is the same county where controversial DA Craig Northcott – who has been openly Islamophobic and Homophobic and refuses to recognize the authority of the Supreme Court – presides. Brooks has been a vocal supporter of Northcott in the past.
Brooks has removed the post. He owns a gun shop and range in Manchester.
In response to it, the Coffee County Young Republicans have already released a statement to distance themselves from it, saying:
“This post does not reflect the views of the Coffee County Young Republicans. While we share the same goal of promoting conservative values and are a part of the larger GOP organization and an affiliate of the County Party, we maintain a separate executive committee and membership from the County Party.”
We will update this story as it develops.
On the steps of the Capitol, Tennesseans came together to call for action in the face of one American massacre after another.
Watch & share, and holler at your reps to #DOSOMETHING.