Kennesaw, Georgia 1982.
Maybe you remember the city of Kennesaw, Georgia? A small bedroom community just north of the city of Atlanta, Kennesaw in the early 1980s was experiencing a spike in crime and looking for ways to stop it.
In what many people deem a swat to the head of the Morton Grove, Illinois, city council and its ban on handguns, in 1982 the Kennesaw City Council enacted an ordinance requiring every homeowner and head of a household to keep a gun on the premises. That’s right, the Kennesaw City Council passed an ordinance making it mandatory to have a loaded firearm in the home.
The typical antigun arguments were made that blood would run in the streets and the city fathers were portrayed as rednecks by a biased, anti-gun media.
This was certainly a new idea in modern America and, as expected, the media went absolutely berserk at the thought of every home being required to have a working firearm in it. Children would die, suicides would rise, street fights would break out and neighbors would end benign disputes with gunfire. You know the routine.
Although the new ordinance was largely symbolic in nature, containing no legal or criminal provisions that would put residents in jail if they refused to keep a firearm in their home, it was widely publicized and promptly made national news. The typical antigun arguments were made that blood would run in the streets and the city fathers were portrayed as rednecks by a biased, anti-gun media. As usual, they were wrong; in fact they were VERY wrong!
Kennesaw, a small town of less than 6,000 at the time, saw an immediate and significant drop in its crime rate from 4,332 per 100,000 (which at the time was above the national average of 3,899 per 100,000) to 2,027 per 100,000. Today, the town population has risen to more than 30,000 and the crime rate is now below 3,000/100,000 and has remained at these low levels since the enactment of the city ordinance—even as the population continues to rise.
In addition, from the enactment of the ordinance through 2005, not one—repeat, not ONE—murder with a gun occurred inside the city limits where the ordinance was in effect. Criminals who were preying on the bedroom communities of the northern Atlanta suburbs apparently decided it might be a great idea to turn their attention elsewhere. Kennesaw seemed to prove the studies done with inmates that criminals fear an armed homeowner more than they fear the police.
Of course the readers of Concealed Carry Magazine know the truth, that guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens deter crime. Now we have yet another example of guns deterring crime in a manner deemed “controversial” by the gun haters and media: open carry. And Kennesaw comes back to the gun debate.
The robbery crew told police that they were going to wait to invade until the “guns” had left the store.
Waffle House in Kennesaw, Georgia
February 2010, 4:45 a.m.
As an active member of www. GeorgiaCarry.org (GCO), I enjoy reading the GCO weekly updates when they hit my inbox, and the Gun Rights Examiner Column of GCO president Ed Stone is also a must read. One of the updates immediately caught my eye when it referred to two GCO members who had apparently, and unwittingly, stopped what would have certainly been a very violent armed robbery. After reading this fascinating story, I made contact with both men and their waitress to get the story directly. What follows is the account of the “robbery that never happened.”
JP Mitchell and Matt Brannan were enjoying their breakfast at the Waffle House on Barrett Parkway, just off of Interstate 575 in Kennesaw, which was their regular routine a few times per week. As is their customary practice, both Matt and JP were openly carrying their .45 ACP Springfield 1911 pistols on their hips. Open carry is legal in Georgia if the citizen is in possession of a valid Georgia Firearm Permit. Although legal, it is still a fairly uncommon sight, especially as one gets closer to the larger metropolis of Atlanta.
While quietly discussing the upcoming day and enjoying their breakfast, Matt and JP noticed a young man walk in the restaurant and begin walking around the store in an unusual fashion. “He looked like he was walking around the store looking for someone or like he had left something in there like a wallet or something,” said Matt.
“We both noticed him and paid attention to him,” JP said.
Matt continued, “When you’re a carrier, you notice things. Your level of awareness has to be heightened. You have a responsibility to protect that weapon.”
Neither man really paid much attention to the way the young man was dressed and nothing else about his demeanor set off any alarm bells other than that he appeared to be searching for something he may have lost. Lingering for a few minutes and then walking the entire length of the Waffle House looking up and down the booths, the young man noticed Matt and JP.
Unbeknownst to Matt and JP, their waitress, Lynn(name withheld by request), had walked outside to take a break. “I always keep my eye on anyone coming near the store, especially at that time,” she said later. “I’m always alert. I pay attention to everything and this just didn’t look right. I notice everything that goes on there. I watch the parking lot all the time.” Upon re-entering the restaurant, Lynn promptly called 911 to report suspicious vehicles outside the store with several men in them that had slowly driven around the back of the parking lot.
Shortly after Lynn called law enforcement, Matt and JP finished their meals and paid the tab. Both men exited the Waffle House and headed to their vehicles. “I went to my truck, mentioned to JP that I would see him soon and took off. I didn’t really notice anyone behind the store in the parking lot,” Matt said.
Matt and JP were unaware that two vehicles had pulled behind the Waffle House. Lynn said, “When the police pulled in, there was only one police car at first and he pulled up kinda sideways and got out. He told the guys to get out of the car and they said ‘No,’ so he walked up and that’s when he saw the guns and ski masks. There was [a] bunch of guns that he put on the hood of the police car, handguns, rifles and ski masks. I held it together while I was watching the police, and then broke down later.”
Matt and JP, unaware of what had occurred, continued on with their daily lives until a chance meeting with a police officer regarding his openly carried firearm led Matt to a conversation about the Waffle House arrests.
In what can only be described as a bizarre twist of fate, Matt realized during that chance encounter with the police officer that the officer was referring to a morning when he and JP had actually been at the Waffle House. Upon further investigation and a call to the department, Matt found out what had actually been going on when he and JP had noticed the young man “looking for something” and what he had actually intended to find.
The police investigated and determined that unbeknownst to Matt and JP, their openly carried guns had thwarted what would most likely have been a very violent situation.
What Matt and JP found out shocked them. The young man they had seen walk through the restaurant that early morning while they were enjoying their breakfast was there to look for something, all right. That something was victims. As it turns out, the man was a scout for a heavily-armed robbery crew who had set their sights on the Kennesaw Waffle House. Upon entering the eatery and doing a quick walk through, the scout exited the establishment to inform the rest of the crew that there were two armed individuals inside.
The police investigated and determined that unbeknownst to Matt and JP, their openly carried guns had thwarted what would most likely have been a very violent situation. During the investigation, the robbery crew told police that they were going to wait to invade until the “guns” had left the store.
Matt, JP and Lynn later came on Armed American Radio to discuss the encounter, hoping to help further justify the lawful open carry of firearms and to dissuade those enemies of freedom who believe that the lawful carry of a sidearm is a disaster waiting to happen. What happened in this case certainly livens the debate between open carry and concealed carry, because there is little doubt that in this case those openly displayed firearms may very well have saved lives without the carriers even being aware of what was occurring.
As someone who has interviewed dozens of fine people who have carried and used their weapons to defend themselves, I am absolutely convinced that the outcome of this event would most certainly have resulted in bloodshed were it not for Matt and JP’s visibly-carried weapons. The story poses some very good questions and certainly brings the open carry movement some well-deserved publicity that the open display of a lawfully carried firearm does in fact, deter crime. One would be hard pressed to argue otherwise under these circumstances. What makes this case unique is the fact that not only were the would-be robbers caught, but they admitted during questioning that the displayed firearms stopped their actions.
We will never know how many times this type of event happens, because it is virtually impossible to gain statistical data on events that never occur. But we do know this: Matt and JP’s open carry on that early morning likely saved many lives, including the lives of the criminals.
The radio interview with Matt, JP and Lynn can be heard in its entirety by visiting www.armedamericanradio.org and listening to the 2-21-2010 podcasted version, hour 2.
[ Mark Walters is a NRA certified instructor, co-author of the book Lessons from Armed America, and a vocal Second Amendment activist. He is the nationally syndicated host of Armed American Radio, which airs Sunday evenings at 8-11 pm EST (5-8 pm PST) from coast to coast. Mark encourages fans to write him at email@example.com. Visit him at www.armedamericanradio.org ]