Since the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, the debate over gun violence in America has largely centered on whether to implement stricter gun-control laws. Second Amendment activists argue that such laws would impinge on their constitutional rights, and some gun-rights groups have even called for the government to arm school teachers. But that pales in comparison to what you can find at the extreme end of the gun debate: Local governments that have made gun ownership mandatory, or mulled such proposals. Here, 5 towns that have considered requiring their denizens to pack heat:
1. Nelson, Georgia
On April 1, the Nelson city council is scheduled to vote on the "Family Protection Act," which would require "every household to maintain a firearm, together with ammunition." The reason, according to Nelson city council member Duane Cronic, is that the town of 1,300 has only one sheriff and he doesn't work at night, making the city vulnerable to would-be criminals. Officially, the ordinance would exempt the mentally and physically disabled, felons, and people with religious objections. In reality, it would exempt everyone, because the city says it won't enforce the law if it passes. While plenty of Nelson residents own firearms, not all of them are pleased with the proposed law:
"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 said... "This is big government at its worst. Government mandating what a free individual can and will have in his home." [WSB-TV]
2. Sabattus, Maine
This small town of 4,876 people in southern Maine is hardly a hotbed of crime, but that didn't stop retired police officer David Marsters from proposing a law mandating the head of every household to own a gun. Marsters told the Bangor Daily News that he wanted to protect people's Second Amendment rights, while opining that the shootings at Sandy Hook were "being used for political games." His dreams, however, were dashed this week, as the ordinance was voted down 4-0. That pleased police chief Anthony Ward, who went on record saying he believes that people "have the right not to bear arms."
3. Spring City, Utah
Councilman Neil Sorensen was initially going to propose an ordinance that would require all of Spring City's 1,000 residents to own a gun. But, after considering his distaste for "big government," he eventually changed it to a resolution simply recommending that everyone own a gun and go through gun training. According to the Deseret News, Sorensen claims that Spring City's residents believe that other cities should follow suit. "They just, in general, think it's a good idea," he said.
4. Virgin, Utah
According to CNS News, Virgin Mayor Jay Lee figured that since 95 percent of the town's 400 residents already owned a firearm, it would be easy to pass an ordinance requiring mandatory gun ownership. Like other towns with similar ordinances, nobody enforces the law, which was passed in 2000. "It's not enforcement," said Lee, "it's a statement."
5. Kennesaw, Georgia
This is the town that started it all. Every time someone tries to pass a law requiring gun ownership, they always cite Kennesaw, which enacted a law in 1982 requiring "every head of household to maintain a firearm together with ammunition." Today the city of nearly 30,000 people proudly boasts about the law on its website:
After passage of the law, the burglary rate in Kennesaw declined and even today, the City has the lowest crime rate in Cobb County. [Kennesaw-ga.gov]
The law was initially passed in response to Morton Grove, Illinois, becoming the first city to ban handguns. Kennesaw police Lieutenant Craig Graydon told Bloomberg that despite the oft-repeated claim that the city hasn't had a homicide in 30 years, it actually has had nine, which is comparable to nearby communities.