By David Beasley
ATLANTA (Reuters) - Residents of a small Georgia town may soon be asked to keep guns in their homes, a proposal that comes as federal lawmakers argue for new limits on firearm ownership.
A city leader in Nelson, 50 miles north of Atlanta, said on Wednesday he proposed an ordinance calling on every head of household to have a gun as a way to keep crime down.
Nelson, home to 1,300 people, employs one police officer, who is only on duty at night, city councilman Duane Cronic told Reuters. When the officer is off duty during the day, residents must call local sheriff's officials if they need assistance, which he said can result in longer response times.
Cronic said his proposal is similar to an ordinance enacted by the nearby town of Kennesaw in 1982. There would be no penalty for not having a weapon, but the law would send a message to would-be criminals, he said.
"It would be a like putting a big security sign in your front yard," he said.
Cronic's proposal is being considered amid heated debate at the federal and state levels over U.S. gun control laws in the wake of a December shooting rampage that left 26 people dead at a Connecticut elementary school.
The fatal attack has prompted some states to tighten gun laws, while other states are seeking to keep federal gun measures from being applied within their borders.
The Nelson city council will vote on the gun ownership ordinance on April 1, Cronic said.
Crime in Nelson mostly consists of petty theft, Cronic said, and he hopes the gun ordinance will keep it that way.
"This is just a way to keep our crime rate low," he said.
(Editing by Colleen Jenkins)