Republican lawmakers in the Georgia House of Representatives are pushing a bill that would block any future red flag laws requiring those who are found to be a threat to themselves to turn over their guns.
Red flag laws have become popular in the last few years in the aftermath of mass shootings across the nation. The laws leave it up to a judge to deem someone a threat to themselves or others.
State Rep. Colton Moore, R-Trenton, a co-author of the bill, said red flag laws go against people's constitutional rights, specifically in terms of the Second, Fourth and Fifth amendments, which give citizens the right to due process.
"My job and sworn oath is to defend the Constitution. Red flag laws are a clear violation of that. This legislation would prevent Georgia from taking part in federal law if it were to be passed," Moore said. "It would also restrict funds for anyone trying to enforce it."
Moore said he doesn't believe any of the sheriffs in rural Georgia would be in support of a red flag law. But he could see a situation where, even in rural Georgia, a red flag law would violate someone's rights.
"My neighbor or your neighbor could go to a liberal judge or liberal sheriff in Georgia and say you or I was crazy," Moore said. "With a red flag law in place, you're giving a judge [the authority] to rule on only one side of the story."
House Bill 751 would block any future legislation that could be passed by the federal government. The idea is to have a law on the books in Georgia that would supersede a federal law.
The penalty for trying to enforce a red flag law, according to the bill, could consist of being charged with a felony, serving up to three years in jail and facing a fine of up to $5,000.
State Rep. Matthew Wilson, D-Brookhaven, introduced a bill that would allow state residents and law enforcement officers to ask a superior court judge to determine whether someone is a threat. A similar law has been passed in 15 states.
Lt. Patrick Cook with the Walker County Sheriff's Office, a firearms supervisor and law enforcement trainer with 27 years of experience, said that if any officer is handed an order by a judge after a case has been appropriately adjudicated and lawfully ordered, no one who swore an oath should have an issue with that.
"But anything that is done by an accusation, that's when you start to infringe on someone's constitutional rights," Cook said.
Moore said that, while the state budget will be at the forefront of many legislators' minds, the anti-red flag law could be passed this session.
Contact Patrick Filbin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6476.