The law went into effect 10 days after the Nelson City Council unanimously approved the measure and City Manager Brandy Edwards said Thursday nothing has actually changed for the city.
Things are so much back to normal, Edwards said, that the city’s lone police officer, Chief Heath Mitchell, has been able to take a few days vacation after spending several weeks working his 40-hour schedule and fielding questions from the media and concerned residents. Residents’ main concern, Mitchell said last Monday, was that the now-passed ordinance might make them subject to penalties should they be found without their guns.
But the Family Protection Ordinance, like a similar one in nearby Kennesaw, was never meant to be enforced, City Councilman Duane Cronic said at the time it was passed. And its content makes it so it couldn’t be enforced even if they wanted it to be, Cronic said.
The ordinance, which Cronic said was a “copy and paste” of the Kennesaw ordinance passed in 1982, states that all heads of household within the city limits of Nelson are required to own a firearm.
But a bit further down in the two-paragraph-long piece of legislation, the law addresses residents who aren’t required to follow the new ordinance.
Among those on the list are felons, the poor, those who aren’t allowed to use a gun because of mental or physical disabilities and, most sweepingly, those who just don’t want to own a gun.
Given that these exemptions could cover basically all of Nelson’s residents that don’t already own a firearm, Mitchell said at the time of its passage that enforcing such an ordinance with his single-man force would be like “stopping every car that drives by City Hall just to see if they have a driver’s license.”
He could never do it, he said.
Instead, he said he hoped, just as the city of Kennesaw hoped, that the law would act as a deterrent.
Lt. Craig Graydon of the Kennesaw Police Department said Thursday that in its 31 years as law for Kennesaw, their ordinance — which he confirmed was the same as Nelson’s — has not once been enforced but may have done some good through the years.
In 1982, the city of Kennesaw was a much more rural and much less populated city of about 5,000 residents, Pam Davis, communication manager for the Kennesaw Police Department said Thursday. Now, Kennesaw has about 30,000 residents, she said.
Graydon, a 30-plus-year resident of the Kennesaw area, said even though the city’s population has more than quadrupled, they’ve still managed to maintain one of the lowest crime rates of cities in the metro Atlanta area.
But there have been a lot of other factors at play in the last 31 years in Kennesaw other than the gun ordinance that could contribute to lower numbers, namely the fact that the city’s police force has steadily grown along with the population, Graydon said.
Graydon said the police department in Kennesaw likely had about seven officers in 1982, and by the time he joined the force in 1986, that number jumped to about 14. Graydon said the Kennesaw Police Department now has about 58 officers.
Whether or not such laws are truly effective, Graydon said, will likely never be known, but for him it’s not about gauging their effects as much as it is about keeping the conversation going.
“We think that the positive is it keeps people talking about crime prevention more,” he said.