After President Donald Trump called for the federal government to give judges the ability to confiscate the weapons of people who pose a threat to themselves or others, a Georgia lawmaker said it’s time for the state Legislature to consider his similar proposal.
Trump on Monday said he was encouraging Congress to pass a “red flag” gun law after high-profile mass shootings in Texas and Ohio over the weekend left more than 30 people dead. Trump said the law would address keeping firearms out of the hands of those with mental health issues.
Georgia does not have any similar laws on the books, but in February, state Rep. Matthew Wilson, a Brookhaven Democrat, filed House Bill 435 to allow state residents and law enforcement officers to ask a superior court judge to determine whether someone is a threat. Similar laws have been enacted in 15 states, including Florida, and Washington, D.C.
“Family members and work colleagues are going to see the threatening behavior before law enforcement necessarily will, and they’re going to see it early enough to where preventative actions can be taken,” Wilson said.
Gun rights activists in Georgia flatly rejected the proposal.
“It’s going to deprive me of my constitutional right to due process before the government deprives me of my property, and it’s not going to do anything,” Georgia Carry Executive Director Jerry Henry said. “There’s never been a life saved by one of those laws.”
Federal law prohibits those who have been involuntarily hospitalized for mental health treatment from purchasing guns, but Georgia law requires the state to purge records of those hospitalizations after five years. Lawmakers in recent years have introduced bills to rid the state of that law, but those bills have gotten little traction.
Under Wilson’s proposed legislation, if a judge finds “clear and convincing evidence” someone is a threat, he or she would be banned from possessing or purchasing any weapons or ammunition and have to surrender what they had for up to a year. The bill asks judges to hold a hearing evaluating a person’s fitness, considering things such as threatening behavior in the workplace, previous violent acts or “serious mental illness.”
Senate Bill 150, sponsored by Atlanta Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan, would let a judge ban those convicted of family violence or placed under a family violence protective order from owning weapons. The legislation, which stalled before it could reach the Georgia Senate floor last session, is not considered a “red flag” law because it does not specify how courts would take weapons away.
“This bill simply empowers the judge to do what’s necessary,” Jordan said.
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