Kennesaw marks 25th anniversary of gun law

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KENNESAW, Ga. - A single ordinance separates this city from other fast-growing communities in the metro Atlanta area: Every head of household must own a firearm and have the appropriate ammunition.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the law, and despite the passing of a quarter-century and a population increase from about 5,000 in 1980 to more than 30,000 in 2005, city officials say they don't have any intention of changing things.

"It's not going anywhere. I think it helps deter crime," said Mayor Leonard Church, a gun owner. The city police department cites the 1982 law - developed in part as a response to an anti-gun ordinance passed at the time in Morton Grove, Ill. - as part of its crime prevention program.

Kennesaw is known for the large 1864 Civil War battle that took place just outside the city, part of Union Gen. William T. Sherman's campaign against Atlanta.

Since the law was passed, there have been few accidental shootings in Kennesaw and none involving children in the 20 years that Lt. Craig Graydon has been with the department.

Yet the law is not known by all residents and is not strictly enforced. No one has been arrested for not owning a gun, and there is no penalty for violating the city ordinance, Lt. Graydon said.

That's good news for Mary Kopins, who has lived in the city for seven years.

"I hadn't heard of it," she said. "I hope that doesn't mean I have to go out and get a gun."

Certain groups are exempted from the law, such as conscientious objectors to firearms, felons and people with disabilities.

"We don't have officers who go out and check your house to see if you have a gun," Lt. Graydon said. "The law gives you enough loopholes that you can get out of owning a gun."


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