Nucla ordinance requiring gun ownership could be challenged by Brady Center

Earlier this month, the town of Nucla passed a rule requiring heads of households to own guns.

Nucla isn't the first community to issue such an edict: It's following the lead of Nelson, Georgia, whose recently approved ordinance has already prompted a lawsuit from the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence (see the complete suit and ordinance below). And a Brady Center representative tells us the organization hasn't ruled out suing Nucla, too.

Says Jonathan Lowy, the director of the center's legal action project, "We're looking into and analyzing the Nucla ordinance to see if it's something we can get involved in."

Some of the stunning scenery near Nucla, on Colorado's Western Slope.
Some of the stunning scenery near Nucla, on Colorado's Western Slope.

According to the Montrose Press, the Nucla rule, which was approved by a 5-1 vote of the town's council, features text that almost duplicates the Nelson ordinance. The latter is a one-page document that portrays the requirement of household heads to own a firearm as a way to "provide for and protect the safety, security and general welfare of the city and its inhabitants."

The only individuals exempted from the regulation are otherwise qualifying individuals who "suffer a physical or mental disability which would prohibit them from using such a firearm," plus "paupers" (those who can't afford a gat, presumably), former felons, and individuals who "conscientiously oppose maintaining firearms as a result of beliefs or religious doctrine" -- language that recalls common parlance related to the Vietnam-era military draft.

The sole Nucla official to vote against the ordinance reportedly did so because he found it to be merely symbolic, as well as unenforceable. But it still troubles the Brady Center's Lowy.

Jonathan Lowy.
Jonathan Lowy.

"We believe it's unconstitutional to require people to buy firearms and bring them into their home," Lowy says. "Just as there is a constitutional right under Supreme Court rulings for law-abiding, responsible citizens to have a gun in their home if they choose, there's also a right for law-abiding, responsible citizens to choose not to have a firearm in their home." Continue for more of our interview with the Brady Center's Jonathan Lowy, plus the complete ordinance and lawsuit.  

Ex-White House Press Secretary James Brady founded the Brady Center after being gravely wounded in an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.
Ex-White House Press Secretary James Brady founded the Brady Center after being gravely wounded in an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.

Indeed, Lowy continues, "the majority of Americans choose to protect their families by not bringing a gun into their home -- and they certainly have that right."

Concerns about the Nelson ordinance are multiplied by other communities, including Nucla, "taking similar actions," Lowy notes. But he emphasizes that the Brady Center wants the debate to remain civil.

In his words, "I think people should be tolerant and respectful on both sides of the gun-issue divide. It's important that people who believe like we and most Americans do -- that we need stronger laws to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people -- be respectful to those responsible people who choose to buy guns and bring them into their homes.

"But it's certainly also important that gun owners are respectful of the decision made by most Americans not to have a gun in the home. And these sorts of ordinances show a total disregard for the liberties and intelligent decisions made by those Americans who choose not to have a gun in their home."

What about the assertion that the ordinance is unenforceable? Does that in any way mitigate complaints?

"Whether officials say they're going to enforce laws they enact or not, there are certainly citizens who don't want to be lawbreakers," he replies. "They take very seriously the necessity to obey laws and don't want to disobey them regardless of the views of officials -- and that's a very honorable position to take. So the only remedy for those citizens who have great respect for the law and don't want to break it when they're faced with an unconstitutional law like this is to go to court and get it struck down."

Here's the Nelson ordinance on which the rule in Nucla is modeled, plus the Brady Center lawsuit.

Nelson, Georgia Gun Ordinance

Brady Campaign Complaint Against Nelson Gun Ordinance

More from our News archive: "Colorado gun-control laws: Here's why 55 sheriffs think they're illegal."

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