The Nelson City Council unanimously approved the first reading of a widely misunderstood ordinance this week, called the Home and Family Protection Ordinance. Although the move drew opinions both for and against, the ordinance wasn’t necessarily misunderstood by residents; it was misunderstood by the rest of the nation. This week the internet exploded with the news, as local and national news outfits latched onto the story, claiming the law forces Nelson residents to buy guns. The Huffingtonpost.com ran an article this week called, Nelson, Georgia City Council Wants to Require Each Household to Own a Gun, while an Athens online piece trumpeted, Nelson, GA Looks to Make Gun Ownership Mandatory. And, a dozen other TV stations ran pieces with similar assertions. But, is all this true?
Speaking at Monday’s meeting, former Woodstock Chief of Police David Bores said the ordinance sends a clear message to the federal government, that Nelson residents are supporters of the second amendment.
“I think it’s terribly important and hope that more jurisdictions will follow suit,”
he said. Nelson Chief of Police Heath Mitchell also supported the measure.
“I think you all are showing people that you are in full support of the Constitution,”
Mitchell said. He went on to explain that when Kennesaw passed a similar ordinance in 1982 the crime rate immediately decreased. Also, since the passage of the law Kennesaw said there has been no increase in gun violence or accidental house shootings. Mitchell said he has received numerous phone-calls from residents in the past few weeks, especially after the school shooting in Connecticut, concerned about federal confiscation of guns. The ordinance protects this right. But, not all residents were in favor of the move.
Although he said he respects the opinions of Bores and Mitchell, Nelson resident Lamar Kellet opposed the ordinance.
“The ordinance is redundant,”
“We already have castle laws, which allow you to protect your property. And you don’t have to fear pulling out your gun on your own property, (or fear ) that you will be indicted for pulling a gun on somebody.”
Kellet went on to say the verbiage of the law is ambiguous and has no meaning.
But, what does the ordinance actually say? See the exact ordinance below as approved in its first reading by Nelson City Council:
Home Protection Ordinance
Heads of households to maintain firearms.
(a) 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.
(b) Exempt from the effect of this section are those heads of
households who suffer a physical or mental disability which would
prohibit them from using such a firearm. Further exempt from the
effect of this section are those heads of households who are paupers
or who conscientiously oppose maintaining firearms as a result of
beliefs or religious doctrine, or persons convicted of a felony.
In the first paragraph the law says every head of household in Nelson is required to maintain a firearm with corresponding ammunition. But more important, the preface states the reason for the law is to protect the general welfare of the city and its inhabitants. Yes. This paragraph does require gun ownership. However, the ordinance has a second paragraph, which exempts individuals from the law who are physically and mentally incapable of owning and using firearms, in addition to heads of households who conscientiously oppose maintaining firearms due to personal beliefs or religious doctrine.
In short, the second paragraph essentially nullifies the first. So, why pass such an ordinance? Councilman Duane Cronic, who read the ordinance during the meeting, called the measure a deterrent ordinance, likening it to putting an ADT Security sign on the front yard, suggesting home invaders would think twice before breaking in the home of a gun owner.
“It’s a protection that everyone should, have,”
“and they should feel that they have the right to protect themselves, their house, their property, (and) their family from an intruder without worrying about prosecution for protecting themselves.”
The ordinance is seemingly a response to the national push for gun control, coming mainly from Washington, in the wake of the Sandy Hook School shooting in December. During his public comments, Nelson resident Bill McNiff, who supports the ordinance, said when people talk of gun control, they’re not truly talking about gun control, but people control.
“We’re going to take it (the ordinance) to the rest of the cities, counties, and states,”
City Council approved the first reading of the ordinance. However, it requires a second a reading to be made official, which council expects to address next month.