Kennesaw, Georgia 1982 law requires all households have a gun

6:16 PM, Feb 26, 2013   |    comments
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Andrea McCarren, WUSA9

KENNESAW, Ga. (WUSA9) - Here's an interesting perspective on the gun control debate. WUSA9 found a town where every household is required, by law, to own a gun and the ammunition to use it.

It's a community 25 miles northwest of Atlanta that put itself on the map in a most unusual way.

"We don't have shootouts. It's not a Wild West," said Lt. Craig Graydon of the Kennesaw Police Department.

Sunrise over Kennesaw, Georgia reveals a sleepy town of 30,000 and a landscape dotted with flags, American and Confederate. Gun ownership is a way of life here.

"I can kill somebody with this. I can really do some damage and hurt somebody," said Karen Sherrill, a lifelong Kennesaw resident. "If I hear somebody trying to break in, this will get loaded. If they want to come into my house, they're gonna get shot."

She's a big supporter of the town's law that requires every household to own a gun.

"Why you gonna break into somebody's house if you know they got guns in there and they could kill ya?" she asked.

"I was born with 'em, raised with 'em, just like any other tool," explained Dent Myers, a feisty 82 year-old shop owner with a pair of pistols holstered to his hips. He too is a staunch defender of the right to own firearms.

"I've got a right to eat oatmeal cookies if I want to, if you don't like them. I can eat chocolate. If you don't like chocolate, so what? Don't eat it. If you don't want a weapon, don't buy one. But don't tell me that I can't," he said.

Our random survey of Kennesaw residents found unanimous support for the law.

"I think everybody should be allowed to have a gun if they want one, as long as they're not crazy or anything," said Benjamin Shoaf, a Kennesaw resident.

Kennesaw's 1982 gun mandate was a direct response to a gun -ban- enacted a year earlier in Morton Grove, Illinois. That was later deemed unconstitutional, but Kennesaw's law is still on the books.

"It was not meant to be an enforceable law. The police department has never searched homes to make sure you had a gun," said Lt. Graydon. "It was meant more or less as a political statement to support citizens' second amendment rights to own firearms."

After the law went into effect in 1982, city leaders say they witnessed a 29 percent drop in crime. Over the last 30 years, the crime rate has remained low with just four gun-related homicides.

"Our crime rate is generally less than half the national average," added Lt. Graydon.

Over the years, Kennesaw has grown. And today, amidst the sprawling subdivisions and strip malls, gun control is still a sensitive issue.

"I've heard quite a few people talking about that and it would be a very ugly sight," said Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews. "There's a lot of people that are very, very passionate about their right to own firearms, any kind of a firearm."

Including an assault weapon? "Yes."

As the sun sets on Kennesaw, its residents are keeping an eye on the 2nd amendment and how Washington interprets it.

"I think if they change it, they're, you know, killing the Constitution. It's been that way forever," said Sherrill.

"No men anymore, there's no men. We have no leaders, no men. So we're just a wishy washy nation now and nobody's afraid of us anymore," insisted Myers.

Homeowners in Kennesaw who don't buy a gun are not punished. In fact, there are several exemptions, including religious objections, if someone is a convicted felon, has a mental illness or simply can't afford a weapon.


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