Nelson backs off on gun ownership ordinance
by Joshua Sharpe
August 24, 2013 12:00 AM | 2064 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The city of Nelson has agreed to settle a lawsuit with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence by agreeing a contentious gun ordinance will not be enforced.

The suit is over the city’s controversial law loosely requiring all “heads of household” within the one-and-a-half square mile town to own a firearm.

As the sole concession by the city of Nelson in the lawsuit, acting Mayor Jonathan Bishop said Wednesday that the City Council has agreed to amend the text of the Family Protection Ordinance to guarantee that it will never be enforced.

Bishop said although Nelson officials have said repeatedly that the ordinance was only meant as a crime deterrent and would never be enforced, “Now, it’s just written down.”

In its brief two paragraphs, the ordinance passed in April by the City Council requires all heads of household within the city to keep a working firearm and ammunition for protection. The ordinance also gives a sweeping list of exemptions residents could claim and not be subject to obeying the law, even if they just don’t want to own a gun.

Jonathan Lowy, director of the Legal Action Project at the Brady Center, said in a news release Thursday that the Washington-based center was satisfied with the compromise on the ordinance, which was also meant to make a statement in support of residents’ Second Amendment rights.

“The Brady Center brought this lawsuit to establish that the Constitution protects the rights of gun owners and non-gun owners alike,” Lowy said. “We are pleased that as a result of our lawsuit, the city of Nelson has recognized that the Second Amendment protects the rights of the hundreds of millions of Americans who believe that the best way to keep themselves and their families safe is by keeping guns out of their homes.”

Nelson resident Lamar Kellett, who joined the Brady Center in suing the city, also said Friday that he accepts the changes to the ordinance.

“I’m glad it was resolved promptly so we didn’t just have this nagging confrontational issue within the city,” said Kellett, who has claimed the ordinance “forced” him to buy a gun. “I hope that we can essentially get back to other issues.”

Like the Brady Center, Kellett has said the Family Protection Ordinance and its loose gun requirement actually violated his Second Amendment rights.

“The Second Amendment protects a person from being forced to buy a gun, while allowing those who want to have a gun (the right),” he said. “It’s kind of a new concept to a lot of people. They just looked at the Second Amendment as the right to own a firearm.”

Bishop said the City Council still supports the original intent of the ordinance but is now ready to put the controversy in the past.

“Time to move on to something else,” he said. “That’s it.”

Although the tiny Cherokee-Pickens city of just 1,300 residents may now turn its attention to other things, Kellett said there is still “no victory,” in the situation.

“Really, the outcome of this is still a cloud,” he said. “I think it reflects poorly on the city.”

Nelson City Manager Brandy Edwards said Wednesday the updated ordinance will have to pass two readings from the City Council before becoming law.

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