In the wake of recent mass shootings, gun laws seem to be on the minds of every American, but in one Georgia town, owning a gun is required.
CNN reports that in Kennesaw, Georgia, local law states that “every head of household residing in the city limits is required to maintain a firearm.”
The town of almost 34,000 people has experienced only one murder is the past six years. It’s deemed one of the safest cities in Georgia, with a violent crime rate of below 2%.
Kennesaw Mayor Derek Easterling asks, “If you’re going to commit a crime in Kennesaw and you’re the criminal, are you going to take a chance that that homeowner is a law-abiding citizen?”
However, the local police department says the law, only recently enacted in 1982, isn’t actually enforced.
Lt. Craig Graydon, who’s been with the Kennesaw Police Department for over 30 years, says, “It was meant to be kind of a crime deterrent. It was also more or less a political statement because the city of Morton Grove, Illinois, passed a city ordinance banning handguns from their city limits.”
Wayne Arnold, a Kennesaw citizen, says he owns a variety of guns, including an AR-15-style .223 caliber rifle.
“It gives me the ability to protect myself as opposed to being somewhere where you weren’t allowed to have a firearm, or it was frowned upon,” said Arnold. “People kind of get the image that it’s the Wild West, where everybody walks around with a firearm strapped to their side, and it’s not like that. It’s strictly a home defense system type of deal. There’s no shootouts down the street.”
Kennesaw city officials say it is unclear whether the gun law is directly correlated to the city’s low crime rate and believe their relationship with the community plays an essential role in maintaining public safety.
“We can’t say that just that gun law contributes x number of percent to why we have a low crime rate. It may be part of it, but it needs to be looked at from a whole picture,” says Graydon. “Don’t just look at the ordinance.”
In light of the recent tragedies across the nation, the town says they have been receiving calls from all over the country to inquire about their unusual gun laws.
“We get a lot of calls, conversation, and it seems to keep crime control, gun safety, things like that on the minds of many of the residents, because people are constantly talking about the gun law,” says Lt. Graydon. “So that’s been somewhat of a benefit to us.”
“The first thing that most people say when they meet us, you know as a community is ‘oh, it’s not what I expected,'” continues Mayor Easterling. “I don’t know what they expect of people who arm themselves with guns at home, or what they’re looking for, but really we’re not that.”
This small town’s attempt to encourage at home protection via firearms may be the very thing that America needs to see during the heated debate on gun control.