Firstly, Nelson's problem is real: they have one full-time policeman, which means that there is no officer on duty better than 70% of the time. I have no idea how serious a problem this is; I don't know the crime rate in Nelson, and the population is so small that it's likely to measure easily - the variance each year could very well be quite large, because crime rates are measured in events per 100,000 population. Nelson is home to around 1,200 souls.
Let us assume that the Nelson city council has a working understanding of the crime situation there. They have thwo options to address it.
1. Raise taxes and hire more police. This means going from one officer to a force of 4 (you need more than 3 to cover 24x7x365 because weekends, vacation, and sick days are a fact of life). This is, as you have noticed, a quadrupling of the force.
2. Accept lower levels of service. Don't hire them, and rely on county sheriffs or other towns for as much help as they can provide. This is in fact what they are currently doing, and the town council notes that response times are quite large when the town police officer is not on duty. They note that the town residents are responsible for their own safety and protection during that time.
There's no magic here. What the proposed ordinance does is put the townspeople on notice that they are, and have traditionally been considered police; Sir Robert Peel's principles of policing say this explicitly:
Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.Traditionally in this land we call people living under this principle "the militia".
Once again, there's no magic at work here. The Nelson town council have chosen option #2, because option #1 is prohibitively expensive and there is no option #3. They are reminding the citizens what the situation is and what responsibilities the citizens face - willing or not. If the citizens of Nelson think that this is the wrong decision, they are entirely free to vote the town council out of office at the next election.
But the proposal is not idiotic, and in fact is a very American solution with a very, very long history. In colonial times all able bodied male citizens were required to be enrolled in the militia. If you saw that as an infringement on your rights, you could always pull up stakes and move. Those that remained (i.e. most of them) were required to purchase a gun and ammunition suitable to militia service. If someone was too poor to buy one, the town collectively purchased one for him.
This is the tradition that informs Nelson's proposed ordinance. It is a 250 year tradition, and a quite practical solution to the problem of the common defense. Again, any citizen of Nelson who dislikes this is free to vote the town council out of office, or to pull up stakes and move.
And so it's simply wrong to say that this is dumb, or an unreasonable infringement of our Constitutional rights. The men who wrote the Constitution would have seen this as astonishingly normal and unremarkable.
Now it's not clear that this law will pass, and if it does it's not clear whether it would be enforced. Kennesaw. Georgia has had a similar law on the books for decades, and it's never been enforced even once. It doesn't look like it will be.
But the law serves notice to both citizens and criminals as to what both can expect. There's a virtue in clarity, and this provides it in bushel basket loads. And the message does in fact get absorbed: when Kennesaw's law went into effect, crime fell 27% the following year.
This discussion under way in Nelson deserves our respect. The proposal may be undesirable for any number of reasons, but it deserves a hearing on the merits. Those of use can use this as a useful discussion with leftists who are willing to have an open mind.