Local officials want state gun law reversed

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Savannah's gun violence problem and efforts to get guns off the street and out of the hands of violent offenders have been very well publicized.

Now, Chatham County is pushing state lawmakers to reverse a gun law that investigators say is counterproductive. Currently, state law requires seized weapons to either be returned to their lawful owners or sold to gun dealers.

In fact, investigators used to be able to destroy any weapons they seized but law makers changed that law back in 2012. But Chatham County officials believe this law is now doing more harm than good.

At least 70 guns are sitting in storage with the Chatham-Savannah Counter Narcotics Team. Weapons that used to be destroyed or used for police training. But in 2012, that changed when Governor Deal signed a bill requiring all counties to sell the guns to dealers. On paper, it's a win-win because the revenue would go back to the county. But local officials say that's not really the case.

"You know it's just not beneficial to the county," said Gene Harley, CNT.

This year CNT sold $10,000 worth of guns, but they may not see a dime because it goes into the county's general fund. Which means CNT is on the losing end.

"That's obviously taking up space and that's taking up manpower because those guns are still under our security at one of our sites, under the security of CNT," said Harley.

It may just be a coincidence, but it's no secret that gun violence is worse since the law changed in 2012. And the numbers from this year has forced local, state and federal investigators to begin End Gun Violence: Step Forward. But is this initiative counterproductive to the law?

"We're making this huge incentive to try to take firearms off the street, but at the same time, we are participating in programs that say we're putting guns back on the street," said Harley.

So will lawmakers consider making changes to the law, not only for Savannah, but also for the sake of a growing fear in national security?

"When you talk about guns, everything is difficult," said Sen. Lester Jackson, Democrat-GA.

"We obviously hope it will pass. There are some people in legislation who are for it and some who are against us," said Harley.

Chatham County is not alone in this plea to lawmakers. According to AJC reports, the Atlanta Police Chief is taking his time selling the thousands of guns they've confiscated in fear that they'll end up back on the streets.

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