Guntersville Council Withdraws Proposed Emergency Management Ordinance

Posted on: 9:31 pm, February 27, 2013, by , updated on: 10:36pm, February 27, 2013

GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – The city of Guntersville is not passing a law to let them take people’s guns away, and held a one minute long council session to make that clear.

Mayor Leigh Dollar said a proposed ordinance to establish municipal actions as needed in case of disaster of emergencies became misinterpreted and misrepresented.

“It was never the intent of the mayor or city council to take anyone’s guns away,” she said.

The Guntersville City Council planned to vote at an upcoming meeting on the ordinance to allow the mayor to declare a state of emergency without having to call a council meeting.

“It’s designed to let the city react immediately to an emergency in the event of a tornado, a snowstorm, a man-made disaster,” city attorney Dan Warnes said.

“We have industries in the town that could have a disaster that could cause the need for immediate action.  It allows us to enter into contracts that otherwise might be bid just to give the city immediate response time,” he said.

Warnes said a City Hall employee attended a seminar for emergency preparedness and an official from Tuscaloosa suggested an adoption of an ordinance based on state law.

“That state law recommends the cities enact a similar ordinance which is what we did.  We took the state law language and incorporated it into the city ordinance and that was the purpose of the city ordinance,” Warnes said.

But the sixth of the seven sections included in the ordinance created a bit of a stir:

“As provided in ALA CODE 31-9-10, any law enforcement officer who is acting in the lawful discharge of the officer’s official duties may disarm an individual if the officer reasonably believes that it is immediately necessary for the protection of the officer or another individual. The officer shall return the firearm to the individual before discharging that individual unless the officer arrests that individual for engaging in criminal activity or seizes the firearm as evidence pursuant to an investigation for the commission of a crime or, at the discretion of the officer, the individual poses a threat to himself or herself or to others.”

That only change from the state law is the wording “a law enforcement officer” to “any law enforcement officer,” and because of public reaction, Warnes said the council decided they could operate under state law and withdraw the local ordinance from consideration.

“I think the ordinance was misinterpreted,” Mayor Dollar said.

“That was never the city’s intent whatsoever [to take away guns].  We firmly believe in guns here and we want our citizens to be able to protect themselves,” she said.

Guntersville resident Mark Dravis said he heard talk radio host Alex Jones–who is based in Austin, Texas–talk about the proposed ordinance on his show earlier this week.

“He mentioned Guntersville, Alabama and I about fell out of my chair,” Dravis said.

“So I’ve been paying a little more attention to this in the last 24 to 48 hours.”

The headline on Jones’s website said “City Wants Power to “Disarm Individuals During Crisis”, and another webpage said “Proposed City Ordinance Would Let Cops Disarm Citizens During Crises If They Become `Unruly`.”

The mayor and council received dozens of angry phone calls; most from out of the area.

“I was shocked by the widespread nature of this and the emails that came from all over the United States,” Mayor Dollar said.  “I’m very relieved that it’s behind us now.”

“It was very surprising and overwhelming but in a way it shows that the American process still works because people are able to voice their opinion and it does count,” she said.

At the special called meeting, Mayor Dollar made a brief statement about the city’s commitment to uphold the second amendment, and then Councilman Dink Myers made a motion to withdraw the ordinance from consideration.

Councilman Randy Whitaker seconded the motion, which carried, and the meeting ended.

City attorney Warnes said it is possible to make amendments to the proposed ordinance, but Mayor Dollar said she has no intention of reconsidering this issue.

Mark Dravis said he saw the ordinance as redundant since the state law already exists, and he is pleased with the council’s decision to withdraw the proposal.

“For the life of me I could not figure out why this was even brought up,” Dravis said.

“It makes no sense. We’ve not had any trouble here during or after a storm.

“Guntersville’s one of the most peaceful places on the planet and why would anybody assume that we needed this ordinance?  It didn’t make any sense.”

Read the city’s prior statement on the Proposed Emergency Procedures Ordinance here.