The “Family Protection Ordinance” is a two-paragraph-long piece of legislation which was presented to Nelson’s City Council for consideration Monday night and passed its first reading unanimously.
To make it on the books as law the “Family Protection Ordinance” must now pass its second reading at the city council’s next meeting on April 1, Nelson City Manager Brandy Edwards said.
Paragraph one of the ordinance would make it illegal for any “head of household” to not own a firearm (and the ammunition to fill it) for the means of being prepared to do their part in protecting the “safety, security and general welfare of the city and its inhabitants.”
Paragraph two, however, tells a slightly different story.
That passage provides a list of Nelson residents who wouldn’t necessarily have to follow the potential law: those who can’t afford a firearm, those with mental or physical disabilities making them unable to use a firearm, convicted felons not allowed to own a firearm and anyone whose beliefs, religious or otherwise, make them opposed to owning a firearm.
Considering that these classifications could potentially eliminate all of Nelson’s roughly 1,300 residents, Mayor Mike Haviland said the law would be “pretty unenforceable.”
And, even if the law were enforced, Haviland said, Nelson’s single-officer police force would have a difficult time keeping up with his workload, making sure everyone has their guns.
Nelson is a town of about a half square mile, straddling the Cherokee County-Pickens County line.
City Councilwoman Edith Portillo said Nelson’s land being split between the two counties does make law enforcement a worry for residents.
“Our police officer, Chief Mitchell does do a wonderful job,” Portillo said. “But he only works 40-hour weeks. The rest of the time we are at the mercy of the sheriff’s department of whichever county we happen to be in, Cherokee or Pickens. This affects response times people get from police, so people need to make sure they’re protected.”
Portillo, one of the City Council members who helped in the planning for the proposed law, also sees the complications in enforcing such a broad, sweeping law.
But that was never the point.
Portillo said many other factors were taken into account when her fellow council member Duane Cronic originally dreamed up the idea, inspired by a similar law in nearby Kennesaw.
“It wasn’t meant to be enforced. We just want to let our community know that we are behind them in their right to bear arms. If they have to defend theirselves on their own property, we don’t want big government coming in and going after them,” she said.
Big government, Portillo said, was another motivation for the law.
“With everything that’s going on around with country with gun control, we wanted to send a statement about how we feel,” she said. “Of course, though, we do want everyone to follow the proper channels in getting and using their guns. We just want them to know we are behind them if they do that.”