April 2, 2013

Ga. city council votes to require gun ownership

Kate Brumback / The Associated Press

NELSON, Ga. — Backers of a newly adopted ordinance requiring gun ownership in a small north Georgia town acknowledge they were largely seeking to make a point about gun rights.

The ordinance in the city of Nelson – population 1,300 – was approved Monday night and goes into effect in 10 days. However, it contains no penalties and exempts anyone who objects, convicted felons and those with certain mental and physical disabilities.

City Councilman Duane Cronic, who sponsored the measure, said he knows the ordinance won't be enforced but he still believes it will make the town safer.

"I likened it to a security sign that people put up in their front yards. Some people have security systems, some people don't, but they put those signs up," he said. "I really felt like this ordinance was a security sign for our city."

Another purpose, according to the city council's agenda, is "opposition of any future attempt by the federal government to confiscate personal firearms."

Council members in Nelson, a small city located 50 miles north of Atlanta, voted unanimously to approve the Family Protection Ordinance. The measure requires every head of household to own a gun and ammunition to "provide for the emergency management of the city" and to "provide for and protect the safety, security and general welfare of the city and its inhabitants."

Nelson resident Lamar Kellett was one of five people who spoke during a public comment period Monday night and one of two who opposed the ordinance. Among his many objections, he said it dilutes the city's laws to pass measures that aren't intended to be enforced.

"Does this mean now 55 miles an hour speed limit means 65, 80, whatever you choose? There's not a whole lot of difference. A law's a law," he said.

Kellett also said the ordinance will have no effect, that it won't encourage people like him who don't want a gun to go out and buy one.

The proposal illustrates how the response to the massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., varies widely in different parts of the country.

While lawmakers in generally more liberal states with large urban centers like New York and California have moved to tighten gun control laws, more conservative, rural areas in the American heartland have been going in the opposite direction.

Among the other efforts to broaden gun rights that have surfaced since the Newtown killings:

- Earlier Monday, lawmakers in Oklahoma scuttled a bill that would have allowed public school districts to decide whether to let teachers be armed.

- Spring City, Utah, passed an ordinance this year recommending that residents keep firearms, softening an initial proposal that aimed to require it.

- Residents of tiny Byron, Maine, rejected a proposal last month that would have required a gun in every home. Even some who initially supported the measure said it should have recommended gun ownership instead of requiring it, and worried that the proposal had made the community a laughingstock. Selectmen of another Maine town, Sabbatus, threw out a similar measure. The state's attorney general said state law prevents municipalities from passing their own firearms laws anyway.

- Lawmakers in about two dozen states have considered making it easier for school employees or volunteers to carry guns on campus. South Dakota passed such a measure last month. Individual communities from New Jersey to Colorado have voted to allow administrators or teachers to carry guns in school.

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