In January of this year six Democrat legislators sponsored a bill that would trample a number of Constitutional rights. At this point, the bill is old news, as is the fact that it was dead on arrival. Yet the fact that this legislation, officially known as House Bill (HB) 731, was even proposed is still remarkable; if it wasn’t founded on ignorance, it sprang from a blatant disregard of the United States and Georgia state Constitutions.
HB 731 has all the earmarks of election year pandering to a liberal constituent base. Even taking that into consideration, the fact that the bill clearly violated two Constitutional Amendments, calls into question the motivation and ethical compass of the sponsors. One can reasonably assume that HB 731’s sponsors don’t care if their bill violates the 2nd Amendment because they likely believe it should be overturned, so that the only people who possess firearms are law enforcement and criminals. Yet it would seem as though anyone with even a passing knowledge of world history would believe in protecting the sanctity of the 4th Amendment. (“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated,”)
The precedent set by HB 731 (if it were passed into law) would sanction the seizing of ANY personal property the government of Georgia determined was undesirable. This in spite of the fact that Article I, Section I, Paragraph I of the Georgia Constitution states, “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property except by due process.”
Dar’Shun Kendrick, state representative for District 93, which covers part of southern Gwinnett County, is one of the bill’s sponsors. In an attempt to understand the thought process behind this bill, I sent the following e-mail to Representative Kendrick:
“As a member of the Snellville City Council, I’m well aware that any ordinances passed by the city must not violate state or federal constitutional rights. As a state representative and an attorney, I would think you’d be even more sensitive to bills that would potentially violate Constitutional rights. That’s apparently not the case as your sponsorship of HB 731 illustrates. I find the phrase in the bill’s description, “to designate certain weaponry and ammunition as contraband and to require seizure of such by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation;” to be troubling, yet it pales in comparison to;
170(a) Any person who possesses a large capacity magazine on or after January 1, 2017, that was obtained by such person prior to July 1, 2016, shall be fined not more than $100.00 for a first offense and shall be guilty of a felony for any subsequent offense.
173(b) Any person who possesses a large capacity magazine on or after January 1, 2017, that was obtained by such person on or after July 1, 2016, shall be guilty of a felony.
I’m sure your argument would be that although the 2nd Amendment states, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”, this provision does not apply to assault-style weapons. However, I’m wondering how you rationalize HB 731’s proposed violation of the 4th Amendment which states, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated,”.
As I read through your proposed bill, Constitutional violations progress from bad to worse– section 16-11-117 requires owners of assault-style weapons to render them inoperative or surrender them. But perhaps the winner of the Constitutional violation derby that is HB 731 is 16-11-123.1 “c) The presence of a machine gun in any room, boat, or vehicle shall be presumptive evidence of the possession or use of such machine gun by each person occupying such room, boat, or vehicle.”
This section of the bill presumes that any person in the vicinity of a machine gun, knows that the gun is present and knows that it is a machine gun. In essence, this section of your bill would make being ignorant a violation of state law.
As egregious as this bill is, its potential ramifications are more so. Aside from the precedent of sanctioning state violations of the Constitution, it would set the stage for turning law-abiding citizens into felons through designating as illegal, any item that the legislature deemed to be unfavorable.
Did any of these considerations occur to you when you sponsored this bill?
As might be expected, Representative Kendrick has not responded. But hopefully, her awareness of Constitutional rights has been increased.