Cook: A new law - you must own a gun

Cook: A new law - you must own a gun

February 16th, 2012 by David Cook in Opinion Columns

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 davidcook@blumail.org.