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Maine town shoots down requirement for gun in every household

By Brittany Brady, CNN
updated 10:47 AM EDT, Tue March 12, 2013
The Byron, Maine, official who proposed the measure said she wants to reintroduce it after it gets reworked.
The Byron, Maine, official who proposed the measure said she wants to reintroduce it after it gets reworked.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The proposal would have required a firearm in each household
  • Byron has 140 citizens, about 50 voted on the measure
  • Official who proposed it voted against it, saying it would be back after it is "tweaked"
  • Another official who opposes says, "What are you going to do if I don't want one?"

(CNN) -- Voters in Byron, Maine, have unanimously rejected a proposed law that would have required each household in the 140-person town to own a firearm and ammunition.

Even the official who proposed the requirement, Selectwoman Anne Simmons-Edmunds, voted against it, saying she did so to have it reworked and reintroduced.

"We had some great ideas and great conversations. I think we will come back with a more comprehensive ordinance, maybe stronger wording for exemptions," she said, adding that about 50 people were at a town meeting Monday night and voted on the measure, all opposing it.

"I know they thought it was going to do well, but I didn't think it was," Selectman David Noise said of those who had supported the measure. Some in the community and at the meeting were strongly against the proposal, he said, even some that were gun owners.

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"I didn't know how big this thing was going to be," he added.

Simmons-Edmunds said that while a core group of townspeople were angry at her for proposing the law, the majority in the town liked it, but "wanted it tweaked."

"I would not want anyone telling me how to feel about something," Simmons-Edmunds said before the vote, "and I don't expect others to get on board with me because I'm in favor of it."

The proposed ordinance had not included an enforcement component, she said.

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Senator: Ordinance 'too much'

Maine state senator and self-avowed National Rifle Association member John Patrick, who lives about 12 miles from Byron, told CNN Monday that the ordinance was "too much."

"I think the bill isn't necessary, especially in a small town," he said. "I do have several guns myself, but if my neighbors don't want to, I don't think it's something that should go on the ballot."

Patrick added that this latest move in Byron came after a 2011 bill passed the state legislature prohibiting municipalities from creating their own gun laws.

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Other cities

Kennesaw, Georgia, passed a law almost identical to the Byron proposal back in 1982, requiring every household to own a firearm along with ammunition. On its website, the city attributes the drop in the crime rate since then to the law.

The mayor and council in Spring City, Utah, passed a resolution encouraging each household to own a firearm in January, and offered city buildings to be used as gun-training locations.

Another Georgia town unanimously approved a proposal to mandate gun ownership last week. Citizens of Nelson, Georgia, now have a chance to review the proposal before the council takes it up again in April.

In the Nelson proposal, people with physical or mental disabilities are exempt from the law, as are "paupers," felons, and those who oppose gun ownership based on belief or religious doctrine.

Simmons-Edmunds said she had made mistakes in her proposal, which did not allow for any exemptions. She said she would like to exempt convicted felons, those with mental illnesses, and people with religious or moral reservations from firearm ownership.

"We basically wanted to send the message that our rights are ours and don't mess with our weapons," Simmons-Edmunds said Monday afternoon in advance of the meeting that rejected her proposal.

Her fellow town official, Noise, took another view.

"I believe in the right to bear arms," he said, "but you shouldn't make people. What are you going to do if I don't want one? Come to my house and tell me I have to leave town?"

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CNN's Chris Boyette contributed to this report.

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