Brady Center Files Lawsuit Challenging Georgia City Ordinance Mandating Gun Ownership | Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

Brady Center Files Lawsuit Challenging Georgia City Ordinance Mandating Gun Ownership

Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence

For Immediate Release

May 16, 2013

Contact:  Media [at] BradyNetwork [dot] org 

WASHINGTON, DC – The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence filed a lawsuit today against the City of Nelson, Georgia, alleging that its ordinance requiring residents to own an operable firearm and ammunition is unconstitutional. In the complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, the Brady Center, joined by the firms of Covington & Burling LLP and Dow Lohnes PLLC, argues that the Nelson city ordinance, adopted April 1, 2013, violates citizens’ First, Second, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The suit was filed on behalf of membership of the Brady Center who face a $1,000 fine for non-compliance.

“Most Americans reject the gun lobby’s vision of an America in which the government can force guns into every sector of society,” said the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project Director Jonathan Lowy.  “In this lawsuit we seek to establish that the government does not have the authority to compel Americans to buy guns or bring them into their homes   In fact, while the Second Amendment gives law-abiding Americans the right to own a gun if they decide that’s the best way to ensure the safety of their homes and their families, the majority of Americans choose to protect their families by keeping guns out.  This ordinance denies the people of Nelson that freedom.  Forcing residents to buy guns they do not want or need won’t make the City of Nelson or its people any safer, and only serves to increase gun sales and gun industry profits.  A gun brought into your home is far more likely to be used to injure or kill a family member, than to ward off an intruder.”

“The ordinance requires citizens to, in effect, salute the flag of gun ownership or explain why not,” said co-counsel Peter Canfield of Atlanta’s Dow Lohnes.  “That’s unconstitutional.”

The complaint in Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence v. City of Nelson, further alleges that in adopting the ordinance, the City of Nelson violated city residents’ First Amendment right to free speech. The complaint argues that the ordinance forces citizens who are subject to one of the mandate’s exceptions for the mentally disabled, impoverished, and those who hold certain beliefs, to declare publicly their status or beliefs in order to opt out of the requirement, in violation of the First Amendment principle that freedom of speech includes the freedom not to speak. The complaint further alleges that the ordinance violates city residents’ fundamental right to privacy within the sanctity of their homes, and unconstitutionally discriminates between heads of household, who are required to own a gun, and non-heads of household, whose personal beliefs cannot provide a basis for an exception to the ordinance’s mandate. 

The lawsuit seeks a declaration that the ordinance is unconstitutional and a permanent injunction against its enforcement.  Counsel for the Brady Center are: Rukesh Korde, Jonathan Wakely, and Daniel Valencia of Covington & Burling LLP, of Washington, DC; Jonathan Lowy and Elizabeth Burke of the Brady Center; and Peter Canfield of Dow Lohnes PLLC of Atlanta.

For more information on the lawsuit, please contact the Brady Center at 202-289-7319.


The mission of the Brady organization is to create a safer America for all of us that will lead to the dramatic reduction in gun deaths and injuries that we all seek.

Dan Gross is the President of the Brady Campaign and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. More information about Dan Gross is available here.

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