What if your town required you to own a gun? - FOX Carolina 21

What if your town required you to own a gun?

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ANDERSON, SC (FOX Carolina) -

In Kennesaw, GA, owning a gun is a requirement.

The City Council enacted an ordinance in 1982 to respond to an Illinois town, which banned guns. Stacy Newkirk said she takes part in the opt-out option. She lives in Kennesaw, but doesn't own a gun.

"I pretty much just decided that it wasn't necessary," said Newkirk.

And Police Chief Bill Westenberger says, that's OK because the ordinance is loosely enforced. He said the idea that bad guys know more people in Kennesaw have guns could keep them at bay.

When the law was put into place 30 years ago, Kennesaw police served a 5,000 person population; now, the officers patrol for 33,000. Westenberger isn't so sure it's the guns that keep his community so safe.

"I think (it's more) having deep roots in a community, keep(ing) community tighter and closer knit," said Westenberger.

Over the years, as population has grown, crime rates have stayed low. In the last five years, Kennesaw has seen three murders.

What would the gun ownership law look like in the an Upstate town that is a similar size to the Georgia city? What would local leaders and residents think of a similar law in Anderson - a town that also calls itself a tight knit community?

Anderson's latest murder was just last month. Since 2006, The Electric City has had 21 murders. Police spokesman Tony Tilley said any murder rocks the city.

"Anderson is a relatively small town," said Tilley. "And we don't have that many homicides here, and when we do, I think it does resonate through the community. It is big news for us because we still have that small-town feel."

Other demographics may come into play. Anderson has a higher unemployment rate, more than 12 percent, with Kennesaw's just less than 10 percent. Kennesaw has a substantially higher median income - about $60,000 - versus Anderson's at just less than $30,000.  

Kennesaw has 60 sworn officers; Anderson has 95. Kennesaw is ranked as the second safest city in Georgia. Anderson consistently ranked higher for violent crimes compared to the U.S., the South and across South Carolina.

But Anderson police and residents think their town is generally a safe place.

Libby Winkler doesn't have a gun, but says if Anderson had a law like Kennesaw's, she would feel safer. Richard Thompson agreed, and told us how armed Americans have historically made a statement.

"In WWII, that's one of the things that the Japanese thought about," said Thompson. "When they were considering what to do about the us, they were very hesitant to invade the country because they knew that most people in America had guns, and that was something that was a concern to them."

Haleigh Smith thinks the more guns that are around, the greater the possibility of accidents or heat-of-the moment shootings.

Ike Clayton has seen Anderson grow since he was born in 1923. Clayton has three guns and says everyone should have at least one at home. But guns on the streets make Clayton nervous.

At Anderson Gun and Pawn Shop in Anderson, Matt McClellan is one making sure gun owners know how to use them safely by teaching firearm safety classes.

"I think it would definitely be safer (if everyone had a gun)," said McClellan, "because the criminals are always going to have a gun."

Even NRA President David Keene said that while gun ownership is a right, it shouldn't be a mandate. He said conceal carry laws should be widespread. He said every state but Illinois has some form of them, and that in those states, "violent crime has gone down."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, a staunch Second Amendment supporter, agrees.

"I like our state carry laws," said Graham. "We're a God-fearing group of people, and I think responsible gun ownership is the right way to go to protect our constitutional right, but I would not suggest that we try to pass a law making somebody buy a gun, because that's not going to fly."

Convicted felons are not allowed to have guns in Kennesaw. Only those who are legally allowed to own them are included.

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