March 8, 2013

Maine town to consider mandatory gun ownership

By GLENN ADAMS, The Associated Press

BYRON — A town of 140 people in western Maine is considering an ordinance to make gun ownership mandatory.


View Town of Byron in a larger map

It's the latest of a handful of communities nationwide to pass or consider such rules, which are widely considered unenforceable.

All three members of the Board of Selectmen in Byron favor it, and Head Selectman Anne Simmons-Edmunds said she expects residents to approve it at Monday's town meeting.

"We're hoping that the town will get on board with us but will accept whatever the town wants," Simmons-Edmunds said Friday.

Communities from Idaho to Georgia have been inspired to "require" or recommend that their residents arm themselves ever since a gunman killed 26 children and educators on Dec. 14 in a school in Newtown, Conn., and raised fears among gun owners about an impending restriction on Second Amendment rights.

The article up for a vote in Byron asks, "Shall the town of Byron vote to require all households to have firearms and ammunition to protect the citizens?"

Backed by gun-rights supporters, the ordinance is intended to pre-emptively block gun-control laws, said Attorney General Janet Mills, adding that it will be "null and void" if it passes.

It is pre-empted by a 2011 state law that bars municipalities from adopting firearm regulations.

"I think the town is going to have to shoot it down," Mills said Friday.

That's what happened this week in Sabattus, where the selectmen took the police chief's advice and voted not to send a similar proposal to voters.

David Marsters, a retiree in Sabbatus, proposed the ordinance, saying it would act as a hedge against crime.

The idea has also caught on in Nelson, Ga., a city of just over 1,300 about 50 miles north of downtown Atlanta, where supporters of the gun-ownership proposal say light police patrols leave residents virtually unprotected for most of the day.

The proposal contains several exemptions for people who object to owning firearms because of personal beliefs, religious reasons or mental disability.

In a prepared statement, Mayor Jonathan Bishop said convicted felons would also be exempted.

Spring City, Utah, moved forward with an ordinance this year, "recommending" the idea of keeping firearms. Other ordinances have been passed in Virgin, Utah, and Cherry Tree, Pa., largely as symbolic gestures.

Greenleaf, Idaho, a town of 900 people in the southwestern part of the state, adopted an ordinance in 2006 that encourages residents who don't object for religious or other reasons to keep guns in the homes and seek training on using firearms.

City officials said they don't know how many residents own guns.

In Byron, Simmons-Edmunds said probably 90 percent of the households already have guns, so the town wouldn't have to enforce the ordinance by checking every household.

"We're not going to invade anybody's privacy," she said. "We just want to send a statement that we're not going to give up our guns."

 

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