Small Town, Big Guns - 8 News NOW

Paula Francis, Anchor

Small Town, Big Guns

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(May 1) -- It's just a small dot on the map but a town in Utah has a law on the books that is making people take notice.

The Virgin River flows 154 miles through Nevada and Arizona. On its way through Utah, it cuts through the town of Virgin. It's not a big place -- only about four miles long. The town's 420 residents are a mix of working class and retired people who like to fish and hunt.

The local gun range is a popular spot. The residents here have something to make sure their firearms are never taken away, ordinance 2000-06-15.

There is a law on the town books that requires every resident of Virgin to bear arms. The head of every household must own some sort of weapon.

Mayor Jay Lee introduced the law three years ago. It's modeled after a law in the town of Kennessaw, Georgia. Lee says he wants to protect the rights of his citizens to keep their families and property safe. Lee says "there's a big push out there to take away our right to keep and bear arms."

According to Lee, a local law is just another layer of protection. He says it will keep any federal or state agency from coming in and taking away their weapons -- without a fight.

Not everyone in Virgin abides by the law -- not everyone has to. Those who are exempt from the ordinance are criminals, people under court order not to have a firearm, anyone mentally and physically incapable of having a firearm, anyone who can't afford one or anyone who simple doesn't want one in their home.

Crime in this small town has never been a problem but the law has helped ensure, there probably won't be. According to the mayor, "It doesn't matter that everyone in town doesn't have a gun. What matters is the criminal doesn't know which house doesn't."

According to residents, Virgin isn't a place where people walk around town, shotgun in hand. There hasn't been a migration of the militia-minded either.

"Most of the people are people who would probably really never even touch a rifle. They don't hunt. "I think people in general just feel a sense of safety in that," said one resident.

Not everyone likes the law. Many don't like the publicity it's brought to Virgin but they're not willing to talk about it. They say this is a small town and if they speak out, they worry about the consequences.

There may come a day when ordinance 2000-06-15 is done away with but for now, those who live here want to make sure life in their town is as simple as the river that runs through it.

Originally, the ordinance required every household in Virgin have a firearm. Town leaders had to change that because the state of Utah prohibits that type of law.

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