published Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Cook: A new law — you must own a gun

There's a gun show this weekend at the Chattanooga Armory. Doors open at 9. What if we all went?

And we all bought a gun?

In Kennesaw, Ga., an hour or two away, every resident must own a firearm. It's city law. And has been since the 1980s.

"Every head of household residing in the city limits is required to maintain a firearm," reads Article II, Sec. 34-21 (a). "Together with ammunition therefore."

I called the Kennesaw city clerk. I listened hard for gunshots in the background. Instead, I think I heard a fax machine. Maybe a coffee pot brewing.

The OK Corral it's not.

"We certainly don't knock on people's doors to make sure they have a gun in their house," said City Clerk Debra Taylor. "And if they didn't, nothing would happen."

Taylor's been at her job for seven years, and takes regular calls from communities across the country.

"They're considering doing the same thing," she said.

Hmmm. Makes you wonder.

What would happen if Chattanooga passed such a law? Every legal resident in our city would be required to own a gun. Black powder rifles, 12-gauge shotguns, .357 Magnums, Saturday night specials, the little one-bullet hand-pistol that slides up your sleeve or down your sock like you see in movies.

With Chattanooga's crime rate as high as it is -- a top 20 city in the United States in 2010 -- it's interesting to consider the effect of having every adult in Hamilton County packing heat.

But how threatened are we really?

In 2009, there were 81 home invasions in Chattanooga, according to police spokesman Nathan Hartwig. In 2010, there were 77.

In 2011, the number dropped to 43.

Forty-three home invasions. Out of more than 70,000 households in Chattanooga. According to Hartwig's numbers, there's a .0006 chance your Chattanooga home will be invaded.

Would higher gun ownership drop that number even more?

The Second Amendment is, well, second on the list of individual rights we have as U.S. citizens, and I don't believe the gun-rights debate should be reduced to bumper-sticker arguments about whether crime is caused by guns or the people who possess them.

Crime and gun violence go much deeper than that.

Most gun owners I know are very responsible. I'm kin with a hunter who has more weapons than I do fingers and toes. And I'd trust him with just about anything (except fixing a vegetarian dinner).

I don't carry my gun with me. Doing so would change my entire perspective: My threat level would be perpetually heightened -- like having Tom Ridge in my mind all day.

But I did have lunch with a man recently who carries his gun everywhere. He works in a rough part of town, he said, and feels much safer with his handgun nearby.

If he safer? Or does he just feel that way?

What if, alongside requiring every citizen to possess a gun, the law required we each possess something else, too?

Backyard chickens. A copy of the Bill of Rights. Gandhi's autobiography.

How would this change our daily experience?

I'm considering going to the gun show for another reason. Tennessee is one of 34 states that do not require background checks for firearms that are sold privately. Could I show up Saturday with $200 cash and buy any gun, no questions asked?

Gun sellers are supposed to ask potential buyers if they could pass a background check or if they've ever been convicted of a felony.

What if legislation was passed that required them to background check their buyers?

It would be a good thing. After all, this gun show -- put on by RK Gun Shows -- has been in town before. You may have heard of it.

Jesse Mathews -- the man accused of shooting and killing Sgt. Tim Chapin -- traded for an assault rifle there last March.

David Cook can be reached at

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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nucanuck said...

The greatest gun right of all is the right to not own one.

February 16, 2012 at 2 a.m.
gjuster said...

I believe strongly in the right to bear arms - but not the requirement.

February 16, 2012 at 7:39 a.m.
328Kwebsite said...

My first impression of a law requiring firearms ownership is that it would be a path to prohibiting felons from living in the area. Those types of laws are probably not about safe and responsible firearms ownership at all.

You probably should go to the gun show. Don't forget your calculator. Be sure to add up the costs for range membership, ammunition for periodic training and maintenance of the weapons operator, additional safety classes and supplies.

Responsible firearms ownership is about more than just purchasing a weapon. If you don't recognize this, then maybe you should begin shopping around for information on how to do it right. I recommend Basic Training. The Department of Defense operates many excellent weapons operation schools.

February 16, 2012 at 8:12 a.m.
Rtazmann said...


February 16, 2012 at 1:01 p.m.
zendoe said...

you will all need a gun soon ,obama has 850 detention centres in usa to lock up kill, arest anyone oposeing him ,detention centres will hold 40 million citizens ,once you wake up and see whats realy going on with world banks, Morningliberty on google, im in australia ,therve already taken our guns , now police shoot without fear being challenged,,lawless society, rites removed

February 17, 2012 at 8:51 a.m.
sage1 said...

Next thing you know, we'll all be required to buy health insurance or go to jail...Reckon?....NAH....that'll never happen.

February 17, 2012 at 1:12 p.m.
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