The town’s Police Chief, Heath Mitchell, told the AP that he hopes “having a gun would help residents take their protection into their own hands,” since the town has an understaffed police department and slow response time to 911 calls.
One councilman even used the National Rifle Association’s call for arming all Americans to defend the law, saying “I really felt like this ordinance was a security sign for our city. Basically it was a deterrent ordinance to tell potential criminals they might want to go on down the road a little bit.” Overall, the measure signals that government officials believe residents, not police departments, should be responsible for their own protection and rejects state and federal governments’ efforts to reduce gun violence through increased regulation of firearms.
The law exempts felons and the disabled, and anyone who objects to carrying a gun can refuse to participate with no penalty. Nelson’s city council claims that the requirement will preempt efforts by the government to “confiscate personal firearms,” something no one has proposed doing:
Councilman Duane Cronic, who sponsored the measure, said he knows the ordinance won’t be enforced but he still believes it will make the town safer.[...]
The city council’s agenda says another purpose of the measure is “opposition of any future attempt by the federal government to confiscate personal firearms.”
The mayor said he never dreamed his small city would be the focus of national and international media attention, but he understands it.
“It bumps up against the national issues on guns,” he said.
One resident told the AP that he wasn’t so sure about the measure. “Really, I think it would be more fair to put it to a vote,” he said.
Nelson’s initiative is part of a national backlash to discussions about gun regulations. After the massacre at Newtown renewed conversations about how to promote gun safety, legislatures and city councils around the country proposed similar measures, requiring or suggesting gun ownership for residents or teachers, or hosting gun giveaways to ‘take back‘ the town.