Gun ownership not just a right, but a requirement
The right to bear arms is a long-standing target of debate in the United States, but in one small town, this right has been taken one step further.
“Just because you have an individual right does not mean that the state or local government cannot constrain it,” said US President Barack Obama in a debate during his 2008 presidential campaign speaking about the right to own guns.
“I don’t think you can carry a gun in Chicago,” said conservative Fox News host Glenn Beck, introducing a story in which a Chicago man opened fire on a bus. “And in my world, everyone on the bus could carry a gun.”
“I like making liberals shoot guns,” said liberal MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on a late night show appearance. “I just don’t think we should be able to bring them home.”
But more than 600 miles south of Chicago, on the same tracks the Union Army took through the state of Georgia during the US Civil War, and you are in the town of Kennesaw.
It’s a way of life.
“In the South, a gun is just a part of the household just like a hammer in the toolbox,” said Robert Jones, president of the Kennesaw Historical Society.
And in the town of Kennesaw, it’s also the law.
“On May 1, 1982 they passed that law requiring all heads of households to own a gun,” said Jones.
“It was in rebuttal to Moron Grove, Illinois,” explained Myers. “They called it Morton Grove, we call it Moron Grove.”
Morton Grove had passed a law banning firearms.
“I don’t think it was the law itself that got people in Kennesaw ticked off,” Jones said. “It was the fawning coverage it received in what today we would call the mainstream press.”
The battle with the mainstream doesn’t end there. Issues that are perceived differently in the South reach further back than the gun law. Several examples are on display at and around Dent Myers’ Kennesaw shop, Wildman’s Civil War Surplus. Here, past meets present. Actual bullets from the Civil War are for sale, while store employees keep modern day guns in holsters on their hips.
Georgia’s confederate-era flag hangs from a flag pole near the town center, not far from the American one.
“It means that we had four years of destruction in this area here while we were trying to repel the invaders,” defends Myers. “It’s a historical thing and I have very much respect and love for it. It doesn’t have anything to do with racism.”
And the Civil War, wasn’t civil. “It’s not a civil war,” said Myers. “A civil war is a war within one country. We had two countries, the Confederate States of America and the United States of America.”
And in Kennesaw, it’s not over either.
“There’s a lot of people here for whom I think the Civil War is still a current topic, not a historical topic,” said Jones.
In Kennesaw, it’s never far away physically either. There are three historic battlefields within a 10-mile radius of the town. And residents’ modern day fight for gun owners’ rights, seems connected to this history.
“I think Southerners view the last gasp of the citizenry against an oppressive government is to revolt,” said Jones. “In Nazi Germany under Hitler, the Soviet Union under Stalin, the first thing they do is take the guns away from everybody so they can’t revolt. And that’s where I think some of the emotion comes from. It’s not just that you can shoot a rabbit with it during the hunting season.”
"We lost the war so we get blamed for everything…A foreign invader is what it boils down to,” said Myers, describing the Civil War.
As for the gun law itself, not everyone abides by it.
“I’m not personally going to have a gun,” said Susan Blaske, a resident and waitress at a local restaurant.
“I’ve owned plenty of guns but I don’t quite have any right now,” said Gary Cabe, another resident who is also a customer at Myers’ Civil War Surplus story.
But these people do have opinions about it.
“I think the gun law in Kennesaw is awesome,” said a Cabe.
“You know it keeps criminals out,” said Blaske. “I think that people would rather go somewhere else where they know there’s not a gun law.”
Law enforcement representatives agree that this may be true.
“Our violent crime rate is extremely low, and property crime is still less than half the national average,” said Lieutenant Craig Graydon of the Kennesaw Police Department.
And for the small Southern town, this may be their victory over the North, 150 years after the Civil War.
“In the South as a result of that war, their lifestyle was gone,” said Jones.
After a war that changed nearly everything, they stuck by their guns.