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A gun in every household? Utah town drafting a resolution

Published: Monday, Jan. 7 2013 10:00 p.m. MST

Sun flowers outside the home of Kathy Peterson in Spring City Saturday, Aug. 22, 2009.

Jason Olson, Deseret News archives

SPRING CITY, Sanpete County — Officials in Spring City are considering a resolution recommending that all households in this rural town of roughly 1,000 people own a gun and participate in gun training.

Councilman Neil Sorensen proposed the issue during last week's City Council meeting. At the time, Sorensen suggested enacting an ordinance that would require gun ownership. But after some discussion, a preliminary vote was taken and the council unanimously agreed to pursue a resolution that would just recommend that every home in the city own a gun.

A draft of the resolution will be written prior to February's City Council meeting and a public hearing will be held before final action is taken.

"We're talking about the wording for it now," Sorensen said. "We don't like big government so we're not going to force anyone."

The councilman said he was motivated to propose the resolution after the recent shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut and the ensuing national discussion of heightened gun control measures.

Spring City relies on a part-time police force and, as a result, response times are not always ideal, he said. But he believes that by having a trained gun owner in every home, residents would ideally be able to defend themselves and act as a crime deterrent.

While unique, gun ownership laws are not unheard of in the United States. In 1982, Kennesaw, Ga., made headlines by passing an ordinance requiring heads of households to own a gun and ammunition — something the city boasts about in the "Our History" page of its website.

"After passage of the law, the burglary rate in Kennesaw declined and even today, the city has the lowest crime rate in Cobb County," the city claims on the site.

Sorensen said most of the approximately 325 households in Spring City already own a gun and the resolution would mostly serve to encourage residents to become trained in firearm usage and announce that as a community, the town supports gun ownership.

"I think it's a good statement," he said. "We believe in our Second Amendment right to carry guns."

Spring City Councilman Noel Bertelson said he initially raised some concerns about the required wording of the original proposal, particularly because of the potential conflict some residents could have if they are not legally permitted to own a firearm.

"There's a lot of restrictions," he said. "You can't have an ordinance that says you have to do this when there's laws that you can't do this."

Bertelson said he recommended to the council that in lieu of an ordinance requiring gun ownership, the city should pursue a resolution recommending gun ownership, which was received positively by his colleagues.

"I think we should encourage it, yes, but I do have concerns about requiring everyone to have a firearm in their home," he said.

Sorensen said the response from the public has been extremely positive. He wasn't initially sure how residents would react to the idea, but has been surprised by the level of support the resolution has received.

"They would like other cities to follow suit," he said of fellow Spring City residents. "They just, in general, think it's a good idea."

Following the City Council meeting, Sorensen posted a description of the resolution on his Facebook page, which resulted in comments both for and against the proposal.

"It's about time," wrote Spring City resident David Sedlak, while former resident Lorilynn Crisp suggested that the need for guns as a crime deterrent was being overblown.

"Crime is virtually nonexistent in Spring City," she wrote. "Maybe people could actually lock their homes if they don't feel safe."

During its January meeting, the council also approved funding to pay the concealed weapons training fees for interested members of the Spring City Elementary School faculty.

E-mail: benwood@desnews.com

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