Cops speak out on new Ge­or­gia laws

The Standard Journal - - Front Page - By MELODY DAREING Staff Writer

Lo­cal law en­force­ment of­fi­cials have a va­ri­ety of opin­ions on some of the laws that went into ef­fect to be­gin July, but all are con­cerned about the Safe Carry Pro­tec­tion Act.

The new law al­lows gun own­ers to carry their firearm in many more places than ever, in­clud­ing some churches and bars, but the law stip­u­lates cer­tain places must first grant the gun car­rier per­mis­sion.

“It’s so con­fus­ing,” said Polk County Po­lice Chief Kenny Dodd. “As far as al­low­ing you to carry a gun into a church, the church may not agree with that.”

Dodd said the new law has prompted his church to change its by­laws to only al­low cer­ti­fied law en­force­ment to carry guns into the build­ing.

He said the rules in­volv­ing school safety zones are con­fus­ing be­cause two bills, of­fer­ing con­tra­dic­tory phras­ing, were passed dur­ing the last leg­is­la­ture. The last bill, House Bill 60, is the law the Ge­or­gia At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s of­fice is us­ing to guide law en­force­ment. The bill states firearms are not al­lowed in school zones.

Rock­mart Po­lice Chief Keith Sor­rells said the one as­pect of the new law that scares him the most is al­low­ing people to take guns into bars.

“I’ve seen over the years, the ef­fect that al­co­hol has on people and tak­ing a gun into a bar re­ally con­cerns me,” Sor­rells said.

Polk County Sher­iff Johnny Moats has the same con­cerns.

“Guns and al­co­hol don’t mix,” he said. “If some­one pulls one out then an­other pulls one out and you’ll have a shoot­ing.”

All three said they are pro-Sec­ond Amend­ment, but they can sense that a lot of things can go wrong un­der the new law.

Dodd said the big­gest con­cern he has is gun car­ri­ers not sur­ren­der­ing to uni­formed po­lice when they ar­rive on the scene.

“What hap­pens when we come up on a sit­u­a­tion and people have guns out and we can’t dis­tin­guish who the good guys are and the bad guys are?” he asked.

“The best course of ac­tion is when they see the po­lice is to put it down.”

Dodd said those gun own­ers who refuse to put a firearm down when or­dered to by uni­formed po­lice will likely be shot, be­cause of an un­writ­ten rule that a uni­formed of­fi­cer al­ways has author­ity over any­one in plain clothes when it comes to weapons.

He still fears some people will still refuse to co­op­er­ate with po­lice and will leave of­fi­cers no op­tion but to shoot.

Bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of gun laws, Dodd said, might solve a lot of po­ten­tial prob­lems be­tween gun own­ers and po­lice of­fi­cers. How­ever the state doesn’t re­quire all those want­ing to carry a gun to take a gun safety course like it’s re­quired in Ten­nessee. It’s a re­quire­ment Dodd wished were in place Ge­or­gia.

An­other state law po­lice are look­ing to find a so­lu­tion for is slower driv­ers.

Those driv­ers cruis­ing in the left lane had bet­ter move it along or move over un­der an­other law in ef­fect as of July 1. H.B. 459, dubbed the “slow­poke law,” states those who are in the left lane with some­one go­ing faster be­hind them must move into an­other lane for them to pass.

Moats said the law is a du­pli­cate of other laws pre­vent­ing people from im­ped­ing traf­fic flow.

“I’ve ac­tu­ally stopped cars for years do­ing that. I’ve never writ­ten a ticket but have warned them,” Moats said.

The left lane is sup­posed to be for pass­ing only, but many driv­ers use it to cruise longer dis­tances. The old law al­lowed for people to con­tinue in the left lane if driv­ers are driv­ing the speed limit and if they are side by side with an­other driver, Dodd said.

The new law states you must move over, even if the car be­hind you is go­ing well be­yond the speed limit.

Bill Hitchens, a for­mer Ge­or­gia Pub­lic Safety Com­mis­sioner, cre­ated the law.

“He said the pur­pose wasn’t to en­cour­age speed­ing but to re­duce road rage,” Dodd said.

Dodd said many road rage in­ci­dents have started be­cause a per­son couldn’t get past slower ve­hi­cles. Cit­i­zens have driven slow on pur­pose to pre­vent oth­ers from speed­ing and Dodd said people need to move over and let po­lice han­dle the speed­ers.

Sor­rells said he has no­ticed that “slow­pokes” tend to be people on cell phones.

“So many times, they are in the left lane talk­ing on the tele­phone and that is what is slow­ing people down,” he said.

Sor­rells said his pa­trol of­fi­cers will first warn people, but will cite them if they con­tinue to travel slowly in the left lane.

Dodd said his of­fi­cers are go­ing to ed­u­cate the pub­lic be­fore they start- ing tear­ing off tick­ets.

“I’m or­der­ing my guys to give warn­ings for July to tell people about the law,” he said.

County of­fi­cers will start writ­ing tick­ets for im­ped­ing traf­fic flow be­gin­ning Au­gust 1. The fee for that traf­fic ci­ta­tion is $75.

An­other law go­ing into ef­fect is to pro­mote re­new­ing a driver’s li­cense on­line. The law al­lows driv­ers to use their on­line re­ceipt as a valid driver’s li­cense un­til they get the real one in the mail.

Sor­rells and Dodd see it as a way to re­duce lines at driver’s ser­vices of­fices and are train­ing their of­fi­cers on the new law. Moats is also train­ing his deputies to ac­knowl­edge the law, but be­lieves it is du­bi­ous and will cause more prob­lems than it solves.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.