In the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting, Reuters checks in with Kennesaw, Georgia, which in 1982 required all heads of households to own a gun and ammo:
Kennesaw's law was a response to Morton Grove, Illinois, which had passed a gun ban earlier that year as a step to reduce crime.
But it also was an affirmation of what gun advocates say is a blanket U.S. constitutional right, under the Second Amendment, for citizens to keep and bear arms. Gun opponents challenge that right and say the language in the Constitution is open to interpretation.
The Kennesaw law has endured as the town's population has swelled to about 30,000 from 5,000 in 1982.
"When the law was passed in 1982 there was a substantial drop in crime ... and we have maintained a really low crime rate since then," said police Lt. Craig Graydon. "We are sure it is one of the lowest (crime) towns in the metro area.
Exceptions are made for felons, conscientious objectors, and people who can't afford a gun. Nobody, says Graydon, has been prosecuted for failing to pack heat. I don't doubt that Kennesaw has seen a crime drop over the past 25 years (violent crime rates are way down from the '80s, or even the '70s, when the feds first started collecting comprehensive data). And I don't doubt that widespread gun ownership acts as a deterrent to criminals. But specifics are always nice.
Here's a bit of irony: Due to the population growth, the gun ownership rate is now lower than when the law first passed.
When the town's gun law was passed, about 70 percent of households likely owned a gun , Graydon said. But Atlanta commuters have since swelled the town's population and gun ownership now is about 50 percent.