As President Obama pushes for his gun control package, a small town in Georgia has made its feelings known -- for the other side.
The City Council of Nelson has approved an ordinance that requires each head of household to own a gun. The legislation passed unanimously and goes into effect in 10 days. Nelson, population about 1,300, is about 40 miles north of Atlanta.
The measure contains no penalties and exempts anyone who objects, as well as felons and people with mental or physical disabilities. In short, it is substantially unenforceable but is designed to send a message.
“Some people have security systems, some people don’t, but they put those signs up,” Councilman Duane Cronic said at Monday night’s meeting, according to media reports. “I really felt like this ordinance was a security sign for our city.”
The measure, officially known as the Family Protection Ordinance, is more symbolic than anything else, Councilwoman Edith Portillo said during deliberations last month. “Our government at the moment, they want to take as much away from us as they can,” Portillo said.
The ordinance is patterned after a similar law approved in another Georgia city, Kennesaw, more than 30 years ago. It has never been enforced, Pam Davis, a spokeswoman for the city told the Los Angeles Times.
The Kennesaw ordinance was passed in 1982 as a symbolic response to an effort to ban guns in a town in Illinois, she said.
“At the time, we were a town of about 5,000 mostly Southern conservatives and people wanted to make a symbolic statement,” Davis said by telephone. The suburb has since grown to more than 30,000 and many people probably don’t even know there is an ordinance on the books requiring the ownership of a weapon.
As far as Georgia officials know, Kennesaw is the only place in the United States that has such a gun ownership ordinance and the number of towns will double once Nelson’s version goes into effect. The City Council in Spring City, Utah, has approved a measure encouraging, but not requiring, gun ownership for residents there.
Residents of Byron, Maine, rejected a proposal last month that would have required a gun in every home.
Gun control has moved back onto the national agenda after a gunman attacked an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., killing 20 children and six educators. The December attack followed another rampage by a lone gunman in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. Twelve people died in that massacre and about 70 were injured.
Obama is scheduled to visit Colorado on Wednesday and Connecticut next week to help drum up support for gun control legislation.