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North Georgia town agrees not to enforce gun-ownership mandate

The North Georgia town of Nelson has agreed to back off it’s mandate that there be a gun in every household, settling a lawsuit brought last spring by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

On Friday a federal judge gave the town that straddles the Cherokee and Pickens county line until Dec. 15 to make the necessary changes to its ordinance.

Nelson officials declined to comment.

But Jonathan Lowy, the director of the Legal Action Project at the Washington-based Brady Center, said the U.S. Constitution protects the rights of those who do not want to own a gun as much as those who do.

“The city of Nelson has recognized that the Second Amendment protects the rights of the hundreds of millions of Americans who believe that the best way to keep themselves and their families safe is by keeping guns out of their homes,” Lowy said.

The Brady Center brought the suit in May, six weeks after the effective date of an ordinance requiring a gun in every house in Nelson. Exemptions were created for residents with mental or physical disabilities that prevent gun ownership, felons, paupers and anyone opposed to guns on religious grounds.

Signs announcing the gun-ownership mandate were posted along the streets leading into the town of 1,300 that was named after John Nelson, an early landowner, farmer and rifle maker.

Nelson’s ordinance resembled one Kennesaw adopted in 1982. But unlike the case against Nelson, two federal lawsuits challenging Kennesaw’s ordinance were dismissed.

Nelson City Council members said when they adopted the ordinance they wanted to send a message to Washington opposing gun control.

But resident Harold Lamar Kellett, in whose name the suit was filed, countered that the ordinance violated his First Amendment right to free speech, his Second Amendment freedom in regards to ownership and the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection.

The City Council unanimously approved the settlement Tuesday. The Family Protection Ordinance was amended to say that the mandate is “not enforceable and shall never be enforced” and there will be no penalty or “adverse consequence” for any homeowner who declines to have a gun in his or her house.