ATLANTA — A Georgia city is backing off its law that required heads of households to own a gun and ammunition, which leaders said was meant to warn would-be burglars and to send a message to the federal government about gun ownership.
The city council in Nelson, a city of about 1,300 residents 50 miles north of Atlanta, passed the Family Protection Ordinance on April 1. About a month later, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence filed a federal lawsuit against the city and council members challenging its constitutionality.
In a joint court filing Thursday, the Brady Center and the city submitted a settlement agreement to the federal judge in Gainesville. The city agreed to add language saying the law is not enforceable, that it will not be enforced and that anyone who violates it will not be subject to any penalty.
“We’re very pleased with the settlement,” said lawyer Jonathan Lowy of the Washington-based Brady Center. “We were able to accomplish everything we wanted to in this lawsuit.”
City manager Brandy Edwards said the city had no comment on the settlement and confirmed no one had been charged under the ordinance.
The measure requires every head of household to own a gun and ammunition to “provide for the emergency management of the city” and to “provide for and protect the safety, security and general welfare of the city and its inhabitants.”
The ordinance exempted convicted felons, those who can’t afford a gun and those who suffer from certain physical or mental disabilities, as well as anyone who conscientiously objects to owning guns because of their beliefs or religious doctrine.
City leaders and the police chief, the only law enforcement officer in town, said during the meeting when the ordinance was passed that they had no intention of enforcing it.
The Brady Center argued that someone who doesn’t conscientiously oppose gun ownership but who doesn’t want to own a weapon wouldn’t be exempt and that would be a violation of the person’s constitutional rights. The national gun control group also argued there was no guarantee that the ordinance wouldn’t be enforced in the future.
The Brady Center also sought to discourage other municipal governments from following Nelson’s lead.
“Nelson clearly saw the writing on the wall, and hopefully this will be a message to other communities that consider enacting this sort of misguided legislation,” Lowy said.