The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence has filed a lawsuit against the small rural town of Nelson, Georgia. Nelson officials recently passed a bill requiring the head of every household to have a gun and ammunition. Violators could be fined up to $1,000, which is significantly less than the cost of a new handgun and a box of ammo.
Nelson has a population of about 1,300 people, though only a small percentage of that number would be considered heads of households.
Understandably, the ordinance exempts felons, Nelson citizens who "suffer from a physical or mental disability," "paupers," or people who "conscientiously oppose maintaining firearms as a result of beliefs or religious doctrine." People who conscientiously oppose maintaining firearms for non-religious regions are out of luck, however.
The Brady Center suit alleges that the ordinance violates the First Amendment of the Constitution, which includes the right to free speech and the "freedom to act or not to act.” The Brady Center also argues the ordinance violates the 14th Amendment, which forces the government to treat all American citizens equally. The ordinance enters shaky territory because it draws a line between heads of households and non-heads of household.
Ironically, the Brady Center also argues that it violates the Second Amendment, making this one of the few instances when the Brady Center has fought in the defense of Second Amendment rights. The suit points out that the Second Amendment does not permit the government to require government ownership.
The suit alleges that Harold Lamar Kellett, a student who was forced to purchase a $700 firearm, was “stripped […] of his right to determine how best to protect his home and compelled him to take action and communicate with the public in a manner he would not otherwise have done.”
The ordinance might hold up to scrutiny because it mirrors similar laws such as those that require citizens to buy car insurance. On the other side of the coin, however, forcing Americans to do anything against their will tends to rub courts the wrong way, and a small town of 1,300 people probably can’t afford an expensive court battle. The Brady Campaign has more than enough time and money to invest in a lawsuit.