Tennessee’s Constitution, 1840 TN Supreme Court Decision Show 2A Not Unlimited

In August, Governor Lee is exercising his constitutional right to call for Tennessee’s legislature to come together in Nashville for an “extraordinary” session on “public safety” in the wake of the tragic attack at the Covenant School down the road that took the lives of innocent people, including children.

Lee’s press release about the special session did not include the word “guns”, but many are hopeful the discussion will revolve around some version of common sense gun reform, which even Fox News polls show are supported by the overwhelming majority of the people.

Predictably, pro-gun groups are already attacking Governor Lee for the implication that he will support some sort of “Extreme Risk Protection Order” that seeks to keep guns from dangerous people, saying he is betraying their constitutional rights as outlined by the 2nd Amendment. But 19 states already have these laws, including Florida which passed theirs after Parkland, and thus far they have withstood legal challenges.

The questions at the center of this special session will likely be a familiar one, one which we have been debating for many years: How unlimited is the 2nd Amendment really, and what was its true intention? To answer these questions about our nation’s constitution, our state’s constitution, and our Supreme Court’s interpretation of it, may provide the answers.

First, let’s remember what the 2nd Amendment actually says:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

2nd Amendment absolutists focus on that last part: “Shall not be infringed”, and say that overwrites the rest of it, even though it begins with “well regulated“, which those in favor of common sense gun reforms say would allow lawmakers to place limitations on the owning and carrying of weapons.

Even conservative Justice Scalia interpreted this right as not unlimited.

Former Tennessee House Republican Rep. Brandon Ogles highlighted the “well-regulated” part in committee, drawing ire from his own party.

Another key word to notice there is “Militia”, which many believe means the 2nd Amendment was actually the framers way of making sure the public was able to take up arms against a tyrannical government should the need arise, and not them saying everyone should be walking around armed to the teeth.

Standing here in the year 2023, over 200 years removed from the writing of the constitution, it’s hard to know exactly what they meant. But you know who was a lot closer to it, and in a much better position to understand the intentions of the United States constitution than we are?

The framers of our own Tennessee state constitution.

Article 1, Section 26 of the constitution can provide some clues as to which reading of the 2nd Amendment is closer to the framers’ intentions. It states:

“That the citizens of this state have a right to keep and to bear arms for their common defense; but the Legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms with a view to prevent crime.”

Did you catch that 2nd part? Again: “The legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms to prevent crime.”

The first constitution of our state was adopted in 1796, meaning those who wrote it were contemporaries of the framers of our nation’s constitution, and likely had a pretty good idea of what they meant.

So if they believe the legislature can regulate guns, how can we stand here 227 years later and say they can’t? That seems to be a highly unreasonable position to take.

It’s also worth noting that when Governor Lee and others say that we can’t regulate guns because criminals don’t obey the law, as he said to us after Uvalde, he is speaking in direct opposition to the very words in the state constitution he has sworn to uphold.

Now let’s focus on the first part. Just like in the 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution, which very clearly says it’s talking about a “Militia”, the Tennessee Constitution’s provision says “for their common defense”. What did they mean by that?

Again, here in 2023 it’s hard to say. But we can draw our answer from the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1840, which was asked to interpret this as it weighed in on a case involving a man who had been arrested for carrying a bowie knife in “Aymette V. State”.

The decision upheld the case against Aymette, who was arguing that Article 1, Section 26 allowed him to carry a bowie knife. In the ruling the Supreme Court made it clear that although he was “insisting” the law “gives every (white, at the time) man the right to arm himself in any manner however dangerous or unusual the weapon” – it went on to say the law did not do that.

Instead, the ruling makes it clear it the Supreme Court believes the phrase “common defense” is key to understanding the law, in that it was really intended to make sure the public could defend itself against a tyrannical government should the need arise again, and that it did not mean individuals could walk around with weapons “efficient only in the hands of the robber and the assassin”, because “these weapons would be useless in war, could not be employed advantageously in common defense.

“The right to keep and bear them is not, therefore, secured by the constitution.”

The ruling goes on to again say that the words “bear arms” are a specific reference to their military use – again useful for our understanding of the 2nd amendment itself – “and were not employed to mean wearing them about the person as part of the dress”.

Not only does the Supreme Court say the legislature can make laws with regard to weapons, it goes so far as to call it “absurd” to think they would not be able to do so, and that the right to weapons in situations of “common defense” would be extended weapons in non-military situations, knowing that “in the hands of an assassin, they might take away life.”

So yes, the Tennessee Supreme Court goes on to say, the Legislature has a right to “prohibit the wearing or keeping weapons dangerous to the peace and safety of the citizens, which are not used in civilized warfare, or would not contribute to to the common defense.

Addressing the argument that the Legislature cannot make these laws, the Supreme Court says it would be to “pervert a great political right to the worst of purposes, and make it a “social evil of infinitely greater extent than abandoning the right itself entirely.”

They go on to imagine “ruffians” entering a “theater” or “church” to the “terror of the audience”, saying it could become “habitual” – which, of course, it has – and say that it would “surely not” be beyond the power of the Legislature to pass laws to stop these horrors.

Prescient, no?

In summation, the Tennessee Supreme Court declares “the right to bear arms is not of that unqualified character” – meaning not without limitations – again reiterating that the law’s intention was of a “common defense” or military nature.

It’s worth noting that the argument of 2nd Amendment absolutists is often that even if it is in reference to a “militia” or the “common defense”, that that includes all citizens. But if they’re going to concede the 2nd Amendment is in reference to the “militia”, that word in the United States constitution is preceded by “well-regulated”.

They cannot have it both ways.

Again, the framers of the Tennessee constitution were alive in 1796. They were contemporaries of the men who wrote the United States constitution itself. Article 1 Section 26 very clearly gives the Legislature the power to make laws limiting the right to carry and keep weapons, and the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld that power in 1840 in Aymette V. State.

Today’s legislators cannot hide behind the constitution. They DO have the power to change our gun laws to keep us and our children safe.

The August special session will be here soon, called by their own Republican governor. It is way past time for them to do it.


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It has to feel weird to be one of those MAGA folks out there calling themselves a “strict constitutionalist” these days while supporting a defeated ex-president who just called for the constitution to be “terminated” because of a Twitter thread with no actual news in it.

To bring you up to speed, new Twitter chief Elon Musk, who has been embracing the far right lately in a big way – bringing even the worst Nazis and insurrectionists back into the Twitter fold and even posting Nazi memes himself (and amplifying Kanye West hours after he expressed his love for Hitler) – teased the release of what he called the “TWITTER FILES”.

Elon said it would be a series of internal docs that delivered the goods on the company’s throttling of the Hunter Biden laptop story in the run-up to the 2020 election. Instead the thread (posted by Matt Taibbi, who has a problematic history of misogyny that goes back to his time in RUSSIA, of all places) really just showed that Twitter was making a good faith effort not to allow yet another attempt at election tampering by foreign actors to sway a presidential election in Trump’s favor AGAIN.

Was it the right decision? Maybe, maybe not. But was it understandable that Twitter was wary of allowing that sketchily-sourced story that originated with Rudy Giuliani, who was up to his eyeballs in lies and surrounded by shady foreign players, not to proliferate on their platform? It absolutely was.

To this day it’s still unclear what the source of the laptop really was, and the mac store guy – who will only talk to Newsmax, etc. – has changed his story more than once. 🚨This Extremely IMPORTANT piece from wash post (with NO PAYWALL) reminds us how shady the sourcing of the Hunter Laptop was/is, and why Twitter and other outlets had EVERY REASON to be suspicious of the Mac store dude, Giuliani, etc — EVEN FOX PASSED ON IT.

None of that context was included in the thread. Instead it was couched as evidence of government interference in an election, even though as FRANKLIN, TN conservative DAVID FRENCH points out the Biden campaign was not the government, so the tweet Taibbi posted of an email where they ask to have Hunter’s dick pics removed was by definition NOT “government tampering”.

French says “Elon Musk & Tucker Carlson Don’t Understand the First Amendment”  – and he’s right. Twitter is a private company—not the federal government, which means they are allowed to make editorial decisions with an eye towards their bottom line.

It’s not a free speech violation, it’s capitalism.

FRENCH: “no amount of misguided rhetoric can transform a Twitter story into a government scandal.”

Ultimately nothing in the Taibbi thread was really news. We knew Twitter had agonized over what to do about the laptop story. We’ve even heard their executives concede that throttling it may have been the wrong thing to do. What it really showed was a company stressing over how to do the right thing.

The lack of revelations led to Rolling Stone calling it a  “SNOOZEFEST” 💤 😴 and NBC rightly framing it as a “rehashing” of old news.

🎯 Another conservative Tim Miller sumned it up by saying “In reality, all they really had was a digital erection.” – pointing out that nobody has a constitutional right to share Hunter’s dick pics.

The problem is, none of these criticisms will pierce the bubble. It’s already being taken for granted in MAGA circles that this thread is the smoking gun, because their Dear Leader Trump has told them as much – and is now literally saying the constitution must be “TERMINATED” over it, so he can be installed as president once again.

As LIZ CHENEY says. “No honest person can now deny that Trump is an enemy of the Constitution.” 🇺🇸

Project Lincoln (former/current Republicans) rightly say “Trump’s comments should have been immediately condemned by every Republican in the nation… Trump and the MAGA movement must be defeated of the 🇺🇸 experiment will come to a crashing end.”

🔥Yet as Conservative Charlie Sykes points out, he is still the 2024 GOP frontrunner: “The last 2 weeks: Trump pledged solidarity with 1/6 rioters, dined w/ fans of Hitler, called to terminate the Constitution— And remains the clear GOP nomination favorite. No wonder they’d rather talk about Hunter’s dick pix.”

Meanwhile Elon Musk is out there acting like he’s some sort of hero of free speech, even though he just banned Kanye West for posting a Swastika, and he won’t reinstate Alex Jones because he personally lost a child and knows how that feels.

Elon didn’t pay $44 BILLION to erase the lines around free speech. He did it so he can be the one to draw them.

Question for FOX NEWS — Does this count as election theft also or is it only when it happens against Trump? We’ll hang up and listen.

Yet again, the silence from Republicans as their party’s standard-bearer shows his authoritarian streak is as strong as ever makes them complicit. We will continue to point that out at every turn.

As always, Your support helps us do this work, so please consider chipping in monthly if you aren’t yet, it all really helps.

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P.S. – Stop for a second and imagine how we would view this from afar if this was happening in another country. 🇺🇸


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OH HEY TUCKER: As they go after Hunter for his laptop/emails, important to remember one of them is Tucker Carlson asking him to help his kid get into college.

NORTH CAROLINAAfter a gunfire attack on electrical substations caused a regional power outage, the sheriff answers “anything’s possible” if it was related to a drag show happening at the time.😳 BUT THE SHOW WENT ON 🗣️👇🏽🏳️‍🌈 ❤️


WHAT IS “WOKE” ANYWAY?: Y’all— Desantis suspended a state attorney for being “WOKE”, so his lawyers had to define it. Their answer: “The belief there are systemic injustices in 🇺🇸 and the need to address them.”🤔 Translation: they’re fighting to suppress an OBVIOUS TRUTH.

NOT PRO-LIFE🇺🇸 has higher maternal mortality rates than other countries (because we don’t have universal health care) — and Tennessee is at the bottom (because we haven’t expanded Medicaid) If you don’t support those policies, stop calling yourself “pro-life”

HAMILTON COUNTY: “It hurts… but I’m not leaving. I want a better future for my children.” HAMILTON COUNTY in the national news for extremist School board member Rhonda Thurman calling Latino students a “burden” — leading to harassment & threats towards families.

SECRETLY WOKE SOUTHERN MEN: We can’t get enough of these “Secretly Woke Southern Men” videos from Shane Hartline, please never stop 😂😂.

HOSPITAL STATEMENT: “a temporary pause to review current practices” Methodist Le Bonheur in MEMPHIS finally goes public with why they suddenly canceled treatment for transgender patients (as Republicans attack them).

HAMILTON COUNTY JUDGE: “THIS IS ABSURD… I WILL NOT SIGN THIS.” Remember road raging Michael Harvey, who followed a woman & son home and threatened them? DA Coty Wamp’s office tried to give him a plea deal the victim was against (and he blamed Crohn’s disease🤔)

ALSO IN CHATTANOOGA🤔CHARGES DROPPED — DUI, drug possession charges against Davis Lundy (ex-adviser to Hamilton  County Mayor Weston Wamp DROPPED despite an open bottle of wine, failed test, 23 grams of what he says was CBD. Wamp’s sister Coty Wamp is the DA. She handed it off to Marion County ADA Cara Sapp.

Seems Rep. Matt Gaetz did not get a warm welcome in Nashville this weekend…

Can someone ask Marsha Blackburn if we’re supposed to credit Biden with this? Or does he only get blame when it goes up? Just so we’re all on the same page.

Ruth covers authoritarianism for a living.

Stuart worked on 5 Republican presidential campaigns 👇🏽

PSA: If you can’t see how true this is, you’re probably not a moderate. 🎯

Don’t forget to check out  2022: A YEAR OF HOLLERING – a review of things we covered this year, with your help. Your monthly donations keep us afloat, chip in here… make it $10/month or more and we’ll send you a holler hat!
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SORRY, FORT CAMPBELL KIDS: Rep. Green Supports Taking Wall $$ From Fort Middle School

We’ve all heard by now that President Trump has declared a “National Emergency” at the border as an end-run around congress to get money for his Wall.

As we mentioned this weekend, Senator Lamar Alexander spoke out against the move calling it “Unconstitutional”, while the rest of the Republican Tennessee delegation has been supportive despite fancying themselves *strict constitutionalists* in favor of *limited government*.

That group includes Rep. Mark Green of TN-7, an army veteran who lives just outside of Clarksville in Ashland City.

What we’re now learning is that included in the list of 400+ projects the president would be steering funds away from to build the wall is “the operation of a middle school at Fort Campbell”, which would likely be unwelcome news to our brave men and women up in Clarksville, where half the base is located.

The Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle has already made note of this, asking Green for his position on it just yesterday. Green had this to say:

“I support it because I believe it’s a crisis. My biggest concern is the narcotics. I think it’s the right thing to do. I think it’s certainly within his legal rights. I think very clearly people want the legislative branch doing legislative stuff, and the executive branch doing executive branch stuff. But the legislative branch has given authority to the executive branch in those certain circumstances where emergencies require action that Congress can’t be quick enough to respond to.”

Reading betweens the line of this “stuff”, Green has tried to make the case that this emergency declaration by Trump is not unprecedented since there have been 58 emergency declarations by presidents in the past – but not one of those has involved a president going around congress to get money for a campaign promise.

As for why the “emergency” is suddenly an emergency now when it didn’t seem to be for the first 2 years of the Trump presidency, there doesn’t seem to be a clear answer.

Green added:

“This is all within the power that’s been granted to the president.”

That will be for the courts to decide. Lawsuits have been filed, and they will likely cite the president saying “I didn’t have to do this” in the very press conference where he made the announcement as evidence for why this emergency is not actually an emergency at all.

More from Green:

“He made a promise to the American people. I think he’s just doing what he thinks he was elected to do.”

Green on the other hand was elected to look out for the interests of Clarksville, a military-heavy district, and it will be up to the residents and the soldiers there to decide how they feel about his decision to prioritize a wall on the Southern border over a school in their own backyard.

Incredibly, when asked about this, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina actually said the kids will be better off not getting the money:

“I would say it’s better for the middle school kids in Kentucky to have a secure border. We’ll get them the school they need. Right now we’ve got a national emergency on our hands.”

It seems Rep. Mark Green agrees. We wonder if the parents up in the Clarksville area do too.

It’s funny how the people who are the loudest about their undying support for The Constitution seem to forget what it says when it gets in the way of the things they want.

Holler at Rep. Green HERE if you’re in Clarksville and have any thoughts.

In the meantime, enjoy a fun cartoon from Modman, showing that there really is nothing this president does that Mark Green won’t support:


OPINION: ROWE TO REP. ROE – “You’ve let your country down.”

This column is the opinion of Chris Rowe, 2020 candidate for Congress in Tennessee’s 1st District. Follow Chris on Twitter here

Friday, we saw our president appear on national television and declare a state of emergency for an artificial border crisis. At the same time, he admitted that not only was it unnecessary, but that he knew it was an abuse of his power.

He asked the supreme court to support his decision anyway.

Many members of congress, regardless of their party affiliation – including our own Republican Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander – saw this for the blatant “unconstitutional” act it was and decided not to back him.

Rep. Phil Roe on the other hand, in a move that added to a string of questionable decisions recently, has come out in support of the president’s illegal power play.

This is not a decision that should be taken lightly by Tennessee’s voters. We need to hold him accountable for his actions, particularly as a member of the party that purports itself to be in favor of the “Rule of Law.”

Therefore, Congressman Roe, I have an important issue to address: If law is to rule, then the onus falls to you to take the president to task for this action, and publicly rebuke it. We cannot simultaneously advocate for “law and order” while condoning the highest office in the land making a mockery of the same.

You’ve already supported multiple unconscionable actions by our president, including holding hundreds of thousands of hard-working Americans hostage for an unnecessary wall. But declaring an unconstitutional “state of emergency” that will divert funds from actual emergencies and cost American lives should be a firm red line for anyone.

Many members of your party have already seen this for what it is, so I ask you now: can you somehow not see for yourself how damaging this is to our union? Or are you simply too afraid to stand up and fight for what’s right just because it may cost you a handful of votes?

Whichever it is, you’ve let your constituency down, you’ve let your country down, and it’s time to step up or move aside and let someone else show you how it’s done.

It’s this type of abdication of your responsibility to protect and uphold the Constitution which has directly led to my challenge for your seat, and I intend to be certain that voters remember your failure to serve them come election time.

Chris Rowe is a Democratic Candidate for Congress in Tennessee’s 1st District. Chris is a 6 year veteran of the Air Force, and a current graduate student at East Tennessee State University. 

Chris has decided to take money only from real people and small businesses, not from large corporations or super PACs, to ensure he remains free of any obligation to “big” anyone.

Holler at Rep. Roe HERE, and donate to Chris HERE.