ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) -- After two back-to-back mass shootings, President Trump is calling for stronger background checks and the passage of "red flag" laws.
It's a measure freshman State Representative Matthew Wilson, a Democrat from Brookhaven, proposed during the last legislative session.
“Earlier this year, in the 2019 session, I filed HB 435 - which would provide a red flag law here in Georgia; and the whole idea behind a red flag legislation is to prevent tragedies before they happen,” said Wilson. The bill Wilson put forth went nowhere, but he hopes that with the spotlight back on the issue, the House will reconsider the measure once session reconvenes in 2020. “Unfortunately, I think Republicans have been afraid to engage on this issue, and so I’m very heartened to see President Trump and prominent Republican Senators, like Lindsey Graham and John Cornyn, come out in favor of this legislation and say ‘ok we can talk about this and not only can we talk about it, let’s do something about it’.”
Red flag laws would allow family members or law enforcement to petition the courts to confiscate guns from someone they believe is a danger to themselves or others.
“It requires any action that takes place has to be in a court, the defendant would have to be notified of the hearing, would have to be allowed to participate in the hearing, and offer evidence and respond to the evidence, and there would have to be a showing of clear and convincing evidence that there is an extreme risk posed before any order can be entered,” said Wilson.
But opponents say red flag laws are a huge concern, and a very slippery slope. For example, what constitutes "threatening or dangerous" behavior...and would that infringe a person's freedom of speech? How would law enforcement go about confiscating a person's firearms? What if someone accused a person of threatening behavior, for political or personal gain?
Jerry Henry, the Executive Director of GeorgiaCarry.Org, says those are all questions he hasn’t heard reasonable response to regarding proposed red flag legislation. In his opinion, red flag laws are unconstitutional and impractical.
“I don’t think most policemen or sheriff’s deputies want to be involved with confiscating firearms just because somebody said something. Now, if the guy has committed a crime, they’ll go in there with whatever force they need to take care of that situation, but [with Red Flag laws] there has been no crime been committed, it’s just ‘well, I think he’s going to commit a crime,” said Henry.
Wilson insists though, his bill would provide proper due process and could save lives. He also says if a defendant feels he or she has been wrongly accused, that person can always appeal.
“That’s why in this bill, in particular, we have to have these conversations in a court of law where we can ensure that everyone’s constitutional rights are being protected,” said Wilson.
But Henry says that’s not the way our Constitution is set up.
“You shouldn’t have to go through appeals to prove yourself innocent, when no one proved you guilty to begin with.”
Henry says if a law like this is passed in Georgia, his organization will consider legal action.
Read the full bill here (HB 435).