You have to own a gun in Nucla — that is, if you want to.

Nucla last week became the first municipality in Colorado to require that residents own firearms, but its ordinance contains exceptions for heads of households who don’t want to or who cannot legally possess a gun.

Nucla’s ordinance passed by a 5-1 vote. It is almost verbatim of the Family Protection Ordinance passed last month by the city of Nelson, Ga.

“The main reason is to protect Second Amendment rights, especially with the government talking about abolishing them,” said Nucla Town Board member Joshua Newingham on Thursday. “Out here, we hunt, we do sports shooting. It’s a way of life.”

Nucla’s ordinance states that, in order to provide for the emergency management of the town and for the general public welfare, “every head of household residing in the town limits is required to maintain a firearm, together with ammunition therefor.”

The ordinance does not specify a type of firearm.

The law includes a paragraph of exemptions for those with a physical or mental disability that prevents them from using a gun, as well as those “who conscientiously oppose maintaining firearms as a result of beliefs or religious doctrine, or persons convicted of a felony.”

Essentially, if a Nucla resident does not want to own a gun, he or she does not have to.

“If you’re against owning a gun, you don’t have to have one,” Newingham said. “If you are a felon, this doesn’t apply to you. There are many ways out of it. It’s an ordinance that’s put out to protect our town (residents’) right to own a firearm. ... It protects the people that do want to own a gun.”

Fellow Town Board member Bill Long cast the only no vote.

“I am the lone gunman — actually, the lone nongunman, I suppose,” he said.

“It’s a fruitless, wasteful type of deal. It cost the town money to publish in the paper and to have our clerks work on. It’s not enforceable.

“Ideologically, it’s no different than saying ‘You can’t own guns.’ If you want less government in our lives, this isn’t that. It’s a symbolic gesture.”

Newingham was asked how the town would be able to enforce the ordinance, absent a registry of gun owners.

“There’s not a real big way to enforce it, per se, but it is to help,” he said.

“It’s basically, if the federal government tried to come in, we have that ordinance in place that says our town is there to back up the owners of firearms and anyone who want to have them. It’s a way to say we believe in our Second Amendment rights.”

Long said he supports the Second Amendment, even though he could not vote in favor of the ordinance. 

“We’re not going to enforce it. It was letting the world know, ‘We like our guns, and if you want to take them, it’s not going to be something you can do without us getting involved in it,’ “ he said.

Several governmental entities across the country have either passed resolutions supporting the Second Amendment or considered laws that would require firearms ownership.

By passing its ordinance, Nucla beat the city of Craig to the punch.

Craig is considering an ordinance after citizen Craig Rummel proposed one that would require heads of households to “maintain a modern sporting rifle capable of accepting high-capacity magazines and ammunition.”

The proposed ordinance contains the same exemptions as Nucla’s.

“We have not done anything with that yet,” Craig City Manager Jim Ferree said on Thursday. “There is a committee made up of local citizens, including the proponents and some at-large committee members. They have not reported back to us yet.”

The ordinance as proposed doesn’t have much teeth.

“It’s a fairly innocuous ordinance. It doesn’t have any penalty. It has exceptions for those who do not wish to have guns,” Ferree said.

“They even admit it’s largely unenforceable; they just want to make a statement.”

Ferree said he doesn’t have an answer as to what purpose the ordinance would serve, given its stated exemptions.

“Lots of times when cities and counties make statements, it’s in the form of a resolution or proclamation. It’s not a law. We’ll see what comes of it,” Ferree said.

“Resolutions, in my mind, (are) just a piece of paper,” Newingham said. “An ordinance is a law. You can hear resolutions all day long.”

Montrose County commissioners in February pledged their support for the Second Amendment by passing a resolution.

Since then, Colorado passed sweeping gun-control laws, including expanded background checks and a limit on magazine capacity, taking effect July 1.

The U.S. Senate’s attempt at similar background check legislation failed.

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