As if all that wasn't enough, the conversation has just become even more
The ordinance in the city of Nelson — population 1,300 — was approved Monday night and goes into effect in 10 days. However, it contains no penalties and exempts anyone who objects, convicted felons and those with certain mental and physical disabilities.
Well oh my gravy! The wanna-be-big-government city council of the tiny town of Nelson, GA, which has a population smaller than that of a New York City rush-hour subway train, has made it mandatory for the head of every household to own a firearm. Here's the text of the law on the town's website. My heavens!
(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 and firearm, together with ammunition therefor.
Now I'm just a simple boy who doesn't know enough about laws and such to make any kind of judgment about the Constitutionality of dictating such a thing, but I’m pretty sure that mandating gun ownership for the residents of a town with almost no crime—and claiming it necessary for "the general safety of the city"—falls under the legal category of “assinine.” In their ample wisdom, though, the Nelson council members have minimized the likelihood of blowback; usually it takes an effort from the NRA to kneecap a gun law, but in this case the drafters have made the ordnance-themed ordinance self-negating with the inclusion of a second provision:
(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.
Those exempt from the law include criminals, the insane, the disabled, and—thoughtfully—paupers! According to the internet, this is what a pauper looks like:
By a strange coincidence, that's how I've always pictured everyone who lives in Georgia. But then again, I'm a terrible person.
Anyway, along with those protected classes, included in the exempt category are dwellers of Nelson with conscientious objections. Objections may be based on religious doctrine, or on, well, just beliefs. With a definition that broad, if you live in Nelson and you ever find yourself hauled in front of the city council for failure to pack heat, you will be excused from the requirement just by adhering to any conviction from "I think guns are bad" to "I believe that you can go fuck yourself." Put simply, Nelsonites can ignore the gun requirement altogether as long as they believe that it shouldn't apply to them, much like pedestrians in New York City aren't held accountable to street signs or signal lights simply because they do not believe in traffic.
My personal belief is that this whole thing is moronic, but even so I have to applaud the Nelson council members for staying committed. Sure, they snuck in a clause that makes their new law moot, but by going through the motions of spelling out all the other grounds for exemption they've done an admirable job of keeping up the pretense that this endeavor is actually serious.
Nelson City Council Member Duane Cronic engages in the serious procedural business of passing a silly law.
Still, by their own admission, the point of passing this law isn’t really to have a law. It’s to make a statement, or a point about our rights, or something. I can’t figure out what comment they intended to make about gun laws, but if any statement comes across through passage of this ordinance, it's "We are a bunch of fucking idiots." ("Idiot" is a legal term for someone in a position of authority who is more concerned with making a point than with making sense.)
I suppose it's possible the council members are actually earnest about believing the requirement will make the town safer, but the crime rate in Nelson is already so low that a single police officer is sufficient to keep the peace:
Police Chief Heath Mitchell noted that the city doesn’t have police officers who work 24 hours a day and is far from the two sheriff’s offices that might send deputies in case of trouble, so response times to emergency calls can be long. Having a gun would help residents take their protection into their own hands, he said.
But the chief — the town’s sole police officer — acknowledged the crime rate is very low. He mostly sees minor property thefts and a burglary every few months. The most recent homicide was more than five years ago, he said.
That being the case, additional firearms are certainly not essential "in order to provide for and protect the safety, security and general welfare of the city and its inhabitants." Bringing a gun into a home that previously didn't have one introduces new risks—the possibility of a family member or visiting toddler accidentally shooting off a toe or a face, for example. That wouldn't be such a bad thing, statistically speaking, if there was also a chance that the gun would be used to fend off an intruder. But since quiet, peaceful Nelson ain't that kind of a place it's a good bet that a household gun mandate is a net negative for the health, safety and general welfare of the town's toes and faces. I do declare!