Guns laws in the rural West

Proposal to require

gun in every house

NUCLA, Colo. – In Southwestern Colorado, where white-capped mountains descend into red-rock canyons, the town trustees in Nucla were recently scheduled to take up a proposal to require every household to own a gun.

“I think we ought to do like that town in Georgia and do an ordinance that requires everybody in the town have a gun,” said Richard Craig, a town trustee, according to a Facebook posting in March.

“I think so too,” said the mayor, Dawna Morris.

Nucla is an hour west and 3,000 feet lower than Telluride. Philosophically and economically, they inhabit different planets.

Where Telluride can afford a private school and supports two newspapers, Nucla and nearby communities have been strapped since the uranium boom ended about a half-century ago. Even the prospect of a few jobs was front-page news in the recent issue of the local San Miguel Basin Forum.

The towns also differ in their thoughts about guns.  Telluride Mayor Stu Fraser testified before a Colorado legislative committee this winter about the need for stiffer limits on firearms. The Nucla mayor wants to require them.

Nucla has been in the news before. Along with Naturita, the adjacent town, Nucla once attracted national attention for a prairie dog shooting festival, which drew the ire of animal rights activists. Townspeople were belligerently defiant, some even speculating about a “shoot a yuppie” festival, according to a New York Times story in 1990.

A more nuanced view of Nucla was presented in a New Yorker story by Peter Hessler. His story “Dr. Don,” profiled the local pharmacist, but it really was much more broadly about what it takes to make a small town work. David Brooks, a columnist for the New York Times, cited it as among the best magazine stories of 2011.

One memorable quote in that story, from a Nucla resident, is this: “I like to play chess. I moved to a small town, and nobody played chess there, but one guy challenged me to checkers. I always thought it was kind of a simple game, but I accepted. And he beat me nine or ten games in a row. That’s sort of like living in a small town. It’s a simpler game, but it’s played to a higher level.”

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/09/26/110926fa_fact_hessler

But as regards gun control, ironies can be found in both Nucla and Telluride. Telluride recently hashed out the need for stronger gun controls. But there’s no place in town that sells guns and, for that matter, little evidence of guns altogether.

As why require guns of residents in Nucla when households already seems to have one?

“The criminals know that we have guns,” explained Craig, the town trustee, in the Forum, an eight-page newspaper. “We have them anyway, but that’s beside the point. This makes it official that we have guns.”

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About Allen Best

Allen Best is a Colorado-based journalist. He publishes a subscription-based e-zine called Mountain Town News, portions of which are published on the website of the same name, and also writes for a variety of newspapers and magazines.
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