The Family Protection Ordinance is a brief two-paragraph piece of legislation, which City Councilman Duane Chronic said Monday was “copied and pasted” from a similar law passed by the city of Kennesaw some 30 years ago.
Chronic introduced the ordinance to the council in March after Nelson resident and Canton Tea Party member Bill McNiff suggested it to him.
Paragraph one of the freshly passed ordinance instructs all Nelson residents to own a firearm and the necessary ammunition as a means of protecting the “general welfare of the city and its inhabitants.”
Paragraph two, though, exempts some residents from obeying the law: Those who can’t afford a gun, those who are prohibited from bearing arms because of physical or mental disabilities, convicted felons and those who simply don’t believe in owning a gun.
Chronic said since paragraph two could exempt basically any of Nelson’s about 1,300 residents, the ordinance is meant simply as a message to any criminals and was never intended to be enforced.
The city of Nelson sits half in Cherokee County and half in Pickens and has only one police officer. This split location and short-staffed police department, Chronic said, makes the city subject to slower response times for police and thus vulnerable to crime. Whether the ordinance is meant to be enforced or not, Chronic said, is not the point.
“This is just a big security sign. People put security signs in their yard all the time, and they don’t have a security system,” he said. “This is a big security sign that says ‘you really don’t know what you’re getting into, potential criminal; move along.’”
Some Nelson residents, though, like Lamar Kellett, a gun owner and 17-year resident of the city, take issue with the law on that very principle.
Kellett rose and asked the council to speak before they took the vote on the ordinance, but was instructed in a unanimous vote to wait until later in the public input portion of the meeting, as he had not signed up before hand to speak.
When his chance finally, Kellett criticized the council for passing an ordinance it didn’t plan to enforce.
“When did we get into the business of making laws that we have no intention of requiring citizens to abide by,” he asked. After the meeting he said, since the Second Amendment of the Constitution grants citizens the right to bear arms, he thought the law was pointless.
“I don’t think it’ll affect anybody one iota,” he said.
Nelson Police Chief Heath Mitchell, the city’s lone police officer, said Monday evening he was happy to see the law added to the books, and he too hopes it will help keep crime out of Nelson.
He admitted, though, that it will most likely never be enforced.
And even if it were meant to be enforced, he said, he could never do it.
“There’s no way I can go to every house and check for guns,” Mitchell said. “That’d be like me stopping every car that drives by City Hall just to see if they have a driver’s license. People who are fussing about it aren’t reading into it…It’s basically a deterrent; that’s what people don’t understand.”
Following the meeting Monday, City Councilman Jackie Jarrett agreed with Mitchell’s sentiment.
“The people that disagree with it,” Jarrett said referring to Kellett and another Nelson resident who spoke out against the ordinance, “all they have to do is put a sign up in their yard: ‘We are unarmed; come on in and I promise you we will not send our police out.’“