Guns of the Kennesaw

With apologies to Gregory Peck et al for the post title.

So gun ownership has been the law in Kennesaw (save for the Constitutionality of conscientious objectors and various other loophooles) for 25 years now.

After doing some perfunctory and fairly superficial research, it seems like the law is really more of a symbolic act than a legislative one. Here’s a choice quote from the above link:

Among those exempt are residents “who conscientiously oppose maintaining firearms as a result of beliefs or religious doctrine.” Others exempt include the physically and mentally disabled, paupers and those convicted of a felony.

The law contains no clause addressing punishment for violating the law. If convicted, City Clerk Diane Coker said punishment would be determined by the general penalty clause of the Kennesaw Code Ordinance – probably a fine of about $100.

So why did Kennesaw enact the law and what has it done. First, it was partially motivated to knock Morton Grove, Illinois, a city that (in)famously banned gun ownership, off the front page. Also, I think there was a real desire at the time to defend the Second Amendment.

But this week’s news makes the situation weirder. In a town of mandated (or at least legislated) gun ownership, Kennesaw wanted to ban guns in public parks. A state law supersedes Kennesaw’s authority to enact such a ban and so, spurred by GeorgiaCarry.org, Kennesaw rescinded it’s park ban [AJC 1] [AJC 2].

The whole thing reminds me of folks arguing over the number of angles that could fit on the head of a pin. Kennesaw put itself at the forefront of any debate about gun rights in 1982, but obviously even they feel that limits can and should be imposed on “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” Certainly we limit the First Amendment in ways (some less than savory, others understandable – no yelling “fire” in a crowded theater), so why is gun ownership any different?

And I can honestly understand at least one argument that GeorgiaCarry.org makes; that a patchwork of local ordinances is confusing to citizens. Certainly no city, county or state wants to end up on Dumblaws.com But Kennesaw should stick to it’s guns (har!) and not bow to pressure. If they feel that the law truly doesn’t present an erosion of the rights of their citizens, and if Morton Grove’s ban was deemed legal, there park ban would presumably pass that test.

Why bow to pressure? Why not rely on the judicial system of our great nation?

Listen, I love a good, spirited debate on the framer’s intent and I can appreciate the fervor of those current adherents of absolutism. But I’m also a realist and non-gun owner. I think that there are conflicts between the spirit and the letter of the “law” of the Bill of Rights that can and should be mediated, continually, by people and their representative bodies.

Sure, I’m no Libertarian, but what’s more empowering than a government that requires gun ownership also putting some guidelines forth about how and where those guns can be used? Come to think of it, neither of those ideas sound very liberty-focused, since both force my hand(gun).

And I haven’t even touched on the issue of crime deterrence, which seems shaky at best given all the ways in which Kennesaw residents can choose not to follow the law.

I guess my point – if I have one – is that the law and our government are always shifting and that’s OK. The framework of our system is the bedrock, the foundation, and if folks want to build a new house or just hang new wallpaper, they do, they can, they should.

You know what, that analogy sucks. Just start flaming me in the comments for even bringing up this hot button topic.

And I still think that Kennesaw can have both laws on the books and not contradict themselves.

Bonus Link: a very thoughtful cartoon by Peter Bagge on the subject of guns. I’m like Peter: not a gun owner but thankful that we live in a country where gun ownership is allowed. I also think that folks that abuse that right ought to be dealt with especially harshly, much like those that would use their right to free speech to truly harm others (see the theater fire above).

Anyhow, I’m blathering. Flame on!

7 Comments so far

  1. Annie (unregistered) on August 22nd, 2007 @ 3:10 pm

    Me first.

    Actually, i thought this was a pretty good post, especially since you got wishy washy there towards the end:
    “You know what, that analogy sucks. Just start flaming me in the comments for even bringing up this hot button topic.”

    I often feel like I confuse myself the more I write stuff on Metblogs, so it is nice to see someone else unsure of themselves, too.

    Concerning guns, I think it becomes ridiculous to keep creating laws that nitpick and split hairs. (“you can have a gun here, but not here, and not here, but it’s okay over here.) I am a believer that you don’t punish people for having guns, you punish them for using them in a criminal manner (to harm or commit a crime against another person.)

    I don’t have a problem with someone having a gun in a park, I just have a problem with someone firing a gun in a park, or committing a crime with it.

    does that make sense? It seems so simple to me.


  2. Seth (unregistered) on August 22nd, 2007 @ 3:54 pm

    Thanks, Anne.

    I think we’re close to the same thinking here, Anne.

    My only difference is that, if it’s Constitutional and it’s the will of the people to write a law about guns in parks, they can and should.

    But, personally, I only have a problem with guns when they’re used improperly/illegally.

    Which is clear as mud.


  3. Sourtone (unregistered) on August 23rd, 2007 @ 10:54 am

    The stupidest thing about this law is that the people with concealed carry permits are not the people who are a danger to others.

    This law will do nothing to keep criminals with guns out of parks – all it will do is keep non-criminals from carrying the guns the county and state have said they’re allowed to.

    It’s a nonsense do notihing law which is about par for the course in todays elected officials


  4. Damon (unregistered) on August 31st, 2007 @ 7:19 pm

    So-called “gun free zones” are, simply speaking, disarmament zones for law-abiding citizens, as only the law-abiding citizen will obey.

    Would a criminal intent on committing a violent felony care about a misdemeanor conviction for violating a city code on carrying a weapon in a city park? Of course not.

    Anytime anyone speaks about gun restrictions, you should ask yourself who that restriction is going to affect. In all cases I can think of, the only person a gun restriction will affect is a law-abiding citizen … not the criminal we all wish such legislation would affect.

    Additionally, laws mean something. Georgia’s constitution allows for only the state legislature to pass gun laws, and the state legislature has given itself sole authority on this subject. If the law-abiding citizens in Georgia want to have their city parks legislated as disarmament zones, then there is a method in place to have that done … through the legislature. Anything else is a violation of law and shouldn’t stand for that reason alone.


  5. Matt Knighten (unregistered) on August 31st, 2007 @ 8:45 pm

    Kennesaw could fight, just as Coweta County is fighting. However I would like to say the reasoning behind why you think they should fight is wrong as compared to Morton Grove.

    Morton Grove challenged the 2nd Amendment and won. However it did not have the same laws and constitution that Georgia has. Georgia has 3 limitations before we even get to the general underlying Federal claim of the 2nd amendment.

    First is 16-11-173 which says firearms are a general and state wide concern and further says that counties and cities may not regulate in any manner the carry of firearms.

    Next is that cities and counties cannot enact laws in conflict with state law. 16-11-127 is the state law which lists most of the places off limits. It says “Nothing in this Code section shall otherwise prohibit the carrying of a firearm in any other public place by a person licensed or permitted to carry such firearm by this part.” So the state law says I am able to carry in a park as long as it is not a public gathering. Kennesaw’s law violates this too.

    Finally the Georgia Constitution allows only the General Assembly to limit how firearms are carried.

    If Kennesaw could have fought through all of that and won, then maybe Morton Grove would come into play. However any one of those by itself is reason why not to fight because any one of them is a reason the law would be ruled invalid by a court.

    Coweta County is just waisting money because state law clearly states in several places that it does not allow local firearm bans. It is a waist of taxpayer money for them to fight what all others thus far have acknowledged is not allowed.

    I have to follow the law, why doesn’t the government?


  6. Chris (unregistered) on September 1st, 2007 @ 2:21 am

    Dear Blogger,

    Please read the Georgiacarry.org letter sent to the City of Kennesaw before crafting an opinion on the matter. At no time was the U.S Constitution cited in that letter. The issue presented to Kennesaw is simply a matter of statutory construction and boils down to respect for the rule of law. The state has said firearms regulations is off limits to the cities and counties in Georgia. This is no different than the state making it illegal to drive without a license plate. A city or county should be no more allowed to get away with ignoring a properly enacted law than a person would be. This is 9th grade civics.

    http://www.georgiacarry.com/city/kennesaw_parks/Kennesaw%20attorney%207-23-07.pdf


  7. Seth (unregistered) on September 4th, 2007 @ 9:25 am

    Would GeorgiaCarry have a similar opinion on this matter – or an opinion at all – if Georgia state law didn’t seek to supersede the U.S. Constitution by constraining (if that’s even the term) the rights of the Second Amendment by further broadening them (make sense)?

    I guess what I really want to know is this: what other State laws exist that seek to clarify a situation that needs no clarification: the U.S. Constitution? Do we have laws that say basically “You can say what you like when you like it” despite the fact that we have a First Amendment?

    I just don’t see the necessity of the Georgia statute EXCEPT to stop what happened in Morton Grove from happening in Georgia. And isn’t THAT fact a usurping(?) of Federal powers by the State? Don’t we have the same kind of jeopardy you (Matt & Chris) are citing in this case one rung up the ladder?



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