The law, called the ‘Family Protection Ordinance,’ reads as follows:
In order to provide for the emergency management of the city, and further in order to provide for and protect the safety, security and general welfare of the city and its inhabitants, every head of household residing in the city limits is required to maintain a firearm, together with ammunition therefore.
“We’re making a statement,” City Council member Jackie Jarrett told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “If you plan on doing us harm, we’ll be armed.”
As mentioned, the law is not ironclad. Any of Nelson’s 1,300 residents can opt out of the mandate if they wish, as Jarrett noted, to account for those “who conscientiously oppose maintaining firearms as a result of beliefs or religious doctrine.”
There’s also an exemption for those who are mentally or physically handicapped and, of course, those who’ve been adjudicated ‘mentally defective’. Convicted felons are prohibited from owning firearms to begin with.
Due to the fact that the town, which sits about 50 miles north of Atlanta, has only one law enforcement officer, Jarrett said the law is a way to ensure the safety of residents, especially considering that new folks are moving into the area.
“Crime is moving on up the road,” he warned. “Subdivisions are opening up, and we don’t know who those people are.”
What’s fascinating is that Nelson is not the first town to enact such a measure. The vanguard for the mandatory gun ownership law was Kennesaw, Georgia, which passed a similar law in the 1980s.
The councilman who sponsored the bill, Duane Cronic spoke to POLITICO about the symbolic nature of the law, admitting that it won’t really be enforced but will still send a strong message to the criminal element.
“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,” said Cronic. “I really felt like this ordinance was a security sign for our city. Basically it was a deterrent ordinance to tell potential criminals they might want to go on down the road a little bit.”
Cronic also acknowledged the political implications of the measure. Mainly, to firmly oppose any “future attempt by the federal government to confiscate personal firearms.”
However, not all of Nelson’s inhabitants are on board with the new law. Some believe it’s a sterling example of government overreach.
“Why have an ordinance if you’re not going to enforce it? What’s the point? They just want publicity to say Nelson is a town full of weapons,” Nelson resident Lamar Kellett told local news affiliate WSBTV.
While Kellett isn’t anti-gun, he says he’s against the government telling him what to do.
“This is big government at its worst. Government mandating what a free individual can and will have in his home,” Kellett said.
What are your thoughts? Is this government overreach or is it safeguarding one’s fundamental right of self-defense?