Following a tense town hall meeting by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) in Memphis over the weekend, local TV reported
that one attendee was packing heat and had been escorted from the room -- which if true, would be a dramatic escalation in the increasingly confrontational health care debate. However, TPMDC has learned that there was not in fact any threat made, nor was it a cause for immediate alarm in its full context.
While one attendee did indeed possess a firearm, he did so in accordance with the state's conceal and carry laws, and was fully cooperative when asked to take it to his car due to a no-guns rule for the meeting.
"The gun issue was handled before the meeting," Shelby County Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Shular told TPM. The audience was asked at the beginning whether anybody had a gun. One man replied that, yes, he was carrying a gun. He was told to leave it in his car for the meeting, and then did so. An officer followed him to his car, made sure that his permit was in order, and he was then allowed to re-enter the event.
Here's a video from NBC station, of just how contentious this whole thing was:
"Please don't yell out," Cohen commanded. "This is America. This is Memphis, Tennessee. Take two Aspirins and come back in the morning."
According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the largely white and conservative audience was not politically reflective of Cohen's Democratic, majority-black district. In fact, multiple people came in who didn't actually live inside the district.