Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Gun-Toting Nelson, Georgia: Where Conservatives Fell in Love with Mandates

By Nomad
When the town of Nelson, Georgia (all 626 people, 254 households, and 188 families of it) decided to mandate the ownership of at least one firearm for all of the town's households, it opened up a lot of interesting questions.

But the most important one was: 
Where are all those conservatives and Tea Party radicals who protested so loudly and for long about Big Government mandates when it came to affordable health care?

Here's the story (Courtesy of Democracy Now) that grabbed my attention last week:
City Council members in Nelson, Georgia, voted unanimously to require heads of households to own guns and ammunition on Monday. The so-called Family Protection Ordinance requires a gun in every home in order to "provide for the emergency management of the city" and "protect the safety, security and general welfare of the city and its inhabitants."
The decision by the city council, in the middle of the national gun control debate, was bound to drawn a lot of media attention. The townspeople- at least the ones who agreed to be interviewed- didn't seem bothered. In fact, most of them supported the decision. (On the other hand, if you didn't own a gun in a town where every else- including every meth addict- did, would you go on national television and brag about it?) 

Presumably, grabbing headlines and three minutes of cable news fame was what the city council had in mind when they unanimously passed this legislation, but one wonders if they really thought this through. To hell with that, they seem to say, let's put this dinky little place on the map by thumbing our noses at Obama and his efforts to make the country safer!

Already Bin Dun
Nelson isn't the only city to pass such an ordinance. In Utah, another town, Spring City, is contemplating the same move. Reportedly there are other towns across the country considering the same measure. 
Actually, another town in Georgia implemented a similar ordinance years ago. According to the Marietta Daily Journal
In 1982, the Kennesaw City Council unanimously passed a law requiring heads of households to own at least one firearm with ammunition. 
That ordinance exempted heads of households who "suffer a physical or mental disability which would prohibit them from using such a firearms" as well as heads of households "who are paupers or who conscientiously oppose maintaining firearms as a result of beliefs or religious doctrine, or persons convicted of a felony." 
I say, a pauper, what?

One thing most in the media failed to mention, though. The Kennesaw gun law, like the Nelson ordinance, really had no teeth. That's correct: there were no penalties for disregarding the law. It was more like an official-sounding suggestion. 

Unlike Nelson, Kennesaw, with a current population of 29,783, is a much larger town and is less than 10 minutes from the heart of downtown Atlanta. City officials claimed the ordinance was one factor in the decrease in crime.
Kennesaw Historical Society president Robert Jones said following the law's passage, the crime rate dropped 89 percent in the city, compared to the modest 10 percent drop statewide.
Three cheers for Kennesaw! 
That boast is a little deceptive since, as one official admitted, "The crime rate wasn't that high to start with." (Actually it sounds more like a graffiti artist ran out of spray paint.)

Even if that drop in crime was real, it seems as though it's not working anymore. According to one official source,
From 1999 to 2011, Kennesaw crime statistics reported an overall upward trend in crime with violent crime increasing and property crime increasing.
Perhaps the NRA can sell the Kennesawians bigger guns? 
Gun ownership advocates cite the Kennesaw example as support for their side. For instance, Gary DeMar, who lives nearby, writes about the virtually non-existent murder rate,
In fact, from 1982 through 2009, Kennesaw had been nearly murder free with one murder occurring in 2007.
Rotten luck to be that murder victim, breaking the town's twenty-seven-year winning streak.

But there was exception. Clever DeMar manages to use it to prove his point too. When three murders occurred in 2010, DeMar explains, they were committed by the same man and in what was described as a “school safety zone,” meaning, an area extending 1,000 feet from any school, including adult colleges and technical schools. So according to DeMar, "Kennesaw has the most liberal gun laws in the United States, employees at the facility where the murders were committed could not have a gun on the premises."

That backs up what the NRA suggests is the answer. More guns at school really must be the answer, I guess. It's so...um.. counter-intuitive, isn't it? 

Incidentally, DeMar is hardly an impartial blogger. Since 1984, he has been the head of a non-profit Christian organization called American Vision. Wikipedia says that the organization promotes the apocalyptic forecast of "Christian Reconstructionism and Postmillennialism, and opposes dispensationalism."
You can investigate all those "isms" for yourself at your leisure. Prepare yourself.
For example, according to a report by The Southern Poverty Law Center :
DeMar has said that not all homosexuals would be executed under a “reconstructed government" but that he did believe that the occasional execution of "sodomites" would serve society well because "the law that requires the death penalty for homosexual acts effectively drives the perversion of homosexuality underground, back into the closet."
One can understand why DeMar would be so supportive of the good people of Nelson and Kennesaw. How else will Christians impose the new holy order on a reconstructed government without every Christ-loving Georgian having a weapon? 

The Hypocrisy of Silence
But something- besides the lack of common sense- is wrong here.
Isn't this a government mandate? Where are all those people who were strongly against ObamaCare who moaned that the government had absolutely no constitutional right to force people to buy things against their will. 

When it came to health care mandates, there were nationwide protests about the "encroachment on our liberties." Here's what the organization, Tea Party Patriots, had to say only a couple of months ago:
The individual mandate is one of the worst parts of the Affordable HealthCare Act – despite its support among many policy wonks across the political spectrum – and completely changes the “free will” contract tradition in America.
That "free will" contract claim is a bit preposterous. A contract is an agreement having a lawful object entered into voluntarily by two or more parties, by their own free will. But that's not normally applied to governments and citizens. 
The mandate requires only that citizens purchase health insurance and includes lot of exemptions. It doesn't force them to enter into a contract with any health provider against their will. If you fail to maintain adequate insurance the government simply subjects you to different treatment under the tax code.
Paying taxes is not a form of punishment as the conservatives constantly profess, especially not when the medical fees for uninsured patients eventually will be passed along with higher insurance fees for everybody and the need for more taxes to fund government-subsidized health care. 

Before the Supreme Court ruled on the matter, how many times did we hear conservatives and Tea Party radicals tell us that Congress had no power to make someone buy something. But, if their present silence is anything to go by, the Nelson city council has that right. 

People like conservative syndicated columnist, author, and Fox News Channel contributor, Michelle Malkin, back in 2011, were saluting the decision of a Florida judge when he ruled that mandates were unconstitutional. And yet, given her past statements on gun control (“the gun grabbing grandstand has to stop.”) this Nelson mandate is one that she would fully support. 
W ho knows? As I have said in the past, silence amounts to approval. 

Anyway, Fox News never promised to be consistent ..or to be honest.

Nonsense of the Irresponsible Kind
In truth, all of the conservative outrage about mandates was nonsense and the same can be said for both the Nelson and Kennesaw gun ownership ordinance. Why? Because mandates by their nature require some kind of punishment for non-compliance. As mentioned above, there's nothing like that. 
The more you think about it, the sillier the whole thing is. 

According to one source, an average price for a quality handgun is somewhere between $400-$600, for an quality rifle somewhere in the $600-$1000 range, and for a basic shotgun, somewhere in the $400-$600 range. Add about $50 for a firearm license, and ammunition. 

Kennesaw had to make the exemptions for "paupers" and Nelson -as well as every other community thinking of following suit- will have to make the same provisions. But that's only about 4% of the population.
Of course, there are perhaps a lot more useful things a family could spend its money on. 

By encouraging a particular form of commerce- under the cover of a serious sounding mandate- the city opens the door for price gouging by local firearms dealers. You can nearly hear them saying to citizens, Well, since you have to own a gun, I can let you have this top quality product for a mere..."

In any case, there is one thing certain about the ordinance. 
It is irresponsible.

While it advised heads of households to buy a firearm, it doesn't specific how the owners should properly stored them. There's nothing in the ordinance about making sure these people have the right information about handling the weapon and the importance of keeping the weapon away from tiny hands that might blow their little heads off. Who will oversee that and, according to the council's budget, from which department will resources be allocated to home to home inspection? 
It's not a trivial matter.
One organization, UCare, an independent, nonprofit health plan providing health coverage and services in Minnesota and western Wisconsin, had this to say about the wisdom of keeping a gun in your home.
Having a gun in your home significantly increases your risk of death — and that of your spouse and children.
And it doesn’t matter how the guns are stored or what type or how many guns you own.
If you have a gun, everybody in your home is more likely than your non-gun-owning neighbors and their families to die in a gun-related accident, suicide or homicide.
Consequently, insurance companies have every right to raise the premiums for the gun-toting citizens of Nelson. Will the city pick up the tab for that too? It may sound like nitpicking but as soon as you mandate citizens that keep a potentially dangerous instrument in their homes, officials must take responsibility for what happens.

The risk of accident death, as well as suicide and homicide increases greatly in homes with guns. That's according to a meta-review published in 2011 by David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. As Hemenway points out, as far as accidental death from guns:
Death certificate data indicate that 680 Americans were killed accidentally with guns each year between 2003 and 2007. Half those victims were under the age of 25.
Children aged 5 to 14 in the United States are 11 times more likely to die from an accidental gunshot wound than children in other developed countries.

“One study of nonfatal accidental shootings found that the majority were self- inflicted, most involved handguns, and more than one third of the injuries required hospitalization...Injuries often occurred during fairly routine gun handling — cleaning a gun, loading and unloading, target shooting, and so on.”
(The link provides more information on suicides and homicides.)

Hopefully, before the city council begins implementing this program they will offer free firearms training. If not, are they prepared to handle the insurance claims from any accidents that may come from putting weapons in the hands of people who have no experience and training? Somebody will have to pay for that training.
Given these stats, why should households that don't risk their families lives be forced to pay insurance premiums at the same rate as people who abide by the ordinance? Isn't that simply punishing common sense?

That Fishy Smell of Socialism
A careful reading of the ordinance finds this line explaining the necessity for the Nelson gun law: for purposes of emergency management and general safety of the city; 

Who decides what is an emergency? How will the authority be delegated or will it just be who has the biggest weapon? What kind of emergency do they foresee? 
There is a very good reason why we normally do not allow citizens to randomly become law enforcement officers. (Isn't that what this ordinance does?) The authority to defend and protect the community must be limited to those who are qualified. Not wide open to just any person who can fire a gun. Wouldn't that be just a bunch of vigilantes, ready to shoot first and ask questions later? (We have seen where they leads in the Trayvon Martin case.)

But then, why should the city demand taxpayers ( with either a mandate or not) to provide for the city emergency management? Isn't that why they pay all that hated tax for? Isn't this in effect making the Nelson residents pay twice for the standard community services.

No, this sounds way too socialist to me. The general safety of the city. That's.. why that's collective security! What happened to the rights of the individual? 
Donning my three-cornered hat and my favorite misspelled sign, I can, channeling any Tea party radical, start raving against this unconstitutional ordinance. 

Forcing us to buy guns? Are we going to stand for this kind of thing? Today it's buying a firearm. What about tomorrow? Where will these government tyrants stop? Will we all be forced to have a nuclear weapon in our backyards? We must put a stop to this kind of trampling on the rights of ordinary citizens like you and me from this conspiracy against our God-given freedoms. First it's a community security force then it's a community farm and then community property. In other words, Communism! (And that starts with "C" and that rhymes with "P"..)

See, working up Tea Party froth, like Sean Hannity or Michelle Malkin, is a easy thing to do. It doesn't take much in the way of talent. Just a microphone, a studio, a camera and the social graces of a rabid Pekingese.. in heat. 

But thinking things through, well, that's a little bit more taxing.

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