Sam Olens served as Georgia Attorney from 2011 to 2016. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Former Georgia AG: It’s time to change state’s gun laws

On this morning’s edition of “Political Breakfast” at WABE (90.1FM), former Republican state attorney general Sam Olens said it’s time to revise the state’s gun laws.

The first topic host Denis O’Hayer brought up was “red flag” legislation that would allow judges to order weapons seized from an individual thought to be a danger to himself or others.

Olens encouraged lawmakers to repeal or change a “ridiculous” Georgia law that requires the state to purge records of people who have been involuntarily committed for mental health treatment after five years.

That purge, which he called “dangerous to society and dangerous to law enforcement,”  effectively stymies federal laws that ban those people from purchasing weapons.

>>More: The gun rights debate in Georgia is intensifying with 2020 nearing

Listen here - and check out the transcript below:

O’Hayer: Let’s start, of course, with reaction in the state to the shootings in El Paso and Dayton. One idea that has come up is so-called red-flag legislation which would allow courts to temporarily block people from getting guns if they pose a danger to themselves or others. 

Let’s start with the legal side because there’s a legal and political side to this. Can the state do anything on its own or is it a scenario where it is up to the state?

Olens: So, I think that the federal government’s role is more if they want to provide grant dollars and use the bully pulpit but it’s a state issue. And clearly the discussion is compliance with due process. Having an appropriate standard such as clear-and-convincing evidence, and requiring that promptly there will be a court hearing with the party who would be losing the weapons having the ability to show that they should be able to retain them.

O’Hayer: Is it time for the state to take another look at this?

Olens: Look, I think the state needs to change its laws. You know, the GBI for years supported changing Georgia law where after five years you purge the records of folks that lost the right to have a weapon because they were involuntarily hospitalized due to mental illness. That’s ridiculous. There’s nothing magical about five years. It should require that you get documentation from a doctor, and upon that documentation from a doctor you potentially would then regain that right.

O’Hayer: Yeah, because the purging after five years is kind of arbitrary, is what I think you are saying.

 

Olens: Well and frankly dangerous to society and dangerous to law enforcement.

Later in the program, O’Hayer asked whether he thinks new gun restrictions can pass constitutional muster in Georgia, where a string of legal rulings have sided with Second Amendment groups.

O’Hayer: And Georgia Carry, we should note, has a very impressive string of victories in the courts, particularly when on a challenge to City of Atlanta legislation on guns in parks, for instance. I remember sitting in a courtroom where they made their case, the city got up and the judge basically looked at the city attorneys and said, why are we here; I mean, this is open and shut, and ruled in favor of Georgia Carry.

 

Olens: Facts are important. 

 

O’Hayer: Anyway, I interrupted you there, but continue with your thought...

 

Olens: I just think that there’s clearly going to be a challenge but if you’ve provided appropriate due process, if you provide a stringent standard, then I think these bills can in fact pass constitutional muster.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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