Spring City debates ordinance that puts a gun in every home

Posted at 9:30 PM, Feb 07, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-07 23:49:07-05

SPRING CITY, Sanpete County, Utah - In this tiny central Utah town, residents joke that every home has a gun.

But a city councilman wants to put it in writing, by pushing an ordinance that recommends every home in this community have a firearm, and everyone undergo free, city sponsored gun safety classes.

"It'll basically just reinforce the fact that we believe in our Second Amendment right, and hopefully protect the citizens and give everybody a sense that we... want people to own guns and be responsible for them and be trained," councilman Neil Sorensen told FOX 13.

The ordinance was drafted in the aftermath of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., and out of concern about gun control measures being considered in the nation's capitol.

Sorensen's ordinance included provisions for people who are not legally allowed to own a firearm, but made city facilities available free of charge for gun safety and education classes. It also stated that "any entity attempting to steal, confiscate, or remove by force or threat of force any firearm from any inhabitant of Spring City will, upon conviction, be subject to appropriate fines and penalties in accordance with Utah State Law."

On Thursday, Sorensen unveiled his ordinance and a parallel resolution. He told the council he supported the passage of the ordinance over the resolution, because a subsequent council could not so easily repeal it. A man in the audience, who came to hear the ordinance, worried about a "new council under Obama" taking it back.

But some of Sorensen's fellow council members expressed concerns about enforceability. Spring City Mayor Eldon Barnes said he was concerned about the city being liable for someone exercising vigilante justice.

"My concern is we have to do this smartly. We have to be intelligent about what we're doing," the mayor said. "In putting it in an ordinance that has no enforcement power, to me is meaningless."

Members of the council all expressed support for the Second Amendment, but some insisted the resolution was adequate. It passed by a 4-1 vote. The ordinance will be revisited in a couple of weeks, when a public hearing will be held and the council will make a formal vote.

Spring City's gun ordinance has generated global headlines. If it passes, this town of 1,000 residents would join Kennesaw, Ga., as having a similar law on the books. The southern Utah community of Virgin tried passing an ordinance requiring gun ownership (with exceptions) in 2000, but the Utah Attorney General said it was illegal.

After the Spring City Council delayed the vote on the ordinance but approved the resolution, a few dozen residents left the council meeting. Some who talked to FOX 13 said they supported the concept -- but weren't sure about whether to support a resolution or an ordinance.

Alan Youngblood said he supports the message behind the resolution.

"I think there needs to be both, but i think it needs to be thought out," said Brent Petersen. "We don't want people running around and doing things that they shouldn't be. At the same time, we do want them to understand how to use a gun if someone were to come into their house."