Two Savannah state legislators draft bills addressing gun crime

(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Two members of Savannah's local delegation have plans to address violent crime in Savannah. Their ideas are drastically different, but both feel it addresses the problems we see here.

Senator Lester Jackson wants to pass a law allowing law enforcers to destroy seized guns. Representative Jesse Petrea dislikes that idea but wants to make it a felony to knowingly give a felon a gun.

On any given day, you'll find a gun buyer inside the Gun Shop looking for their next purchase. When it comes to the two bills on the table for legislators, it's clear which they favor.

"Nobody goes out and destroys a car because someone stole it and got in an accident. It is nothing more than a tool," said Matthew Harrell, the manager of the Gun Shop.

Instead, Harrell said selling these guns gives cities an extra revenue source. He argued selling them back does not increase the likelihood of them ending up back on the streets.

"You sell to legitimate people. You do a legitimate background, and you made money on something you'd otherwise pay to destroy," said Harrell.

Senator Jackson disagreed and said stats show those guns do end up on the streets. His bill, once again, allows police departments and sheriff's offices to destroy these guns. The difference is - the bill also allows them to decide if they want to sell them too.

"It's so vitally important for all of Georgia but more importantly to the city of Savannah. Gun violence is the number one issue that affects the citizens of Savannah, Georgia," said Jackson.

Patrick Kelsey, a Savannah resident, spoke to the local delegation Friday on the importance of passing Jackson's bill.

"I think we have to do something a lot more to take the guns off the street," said Kelsey. "Just selling them back to the dealer themselves doesn't make any sense."

On the other side, Representative Jesse Petrea said destroying the guns makes no sense. He also thinks the law has no chance to pass. His new bill, which he spoke about for the first time Friday, would make it a felony to knowingly give a gun to a felon. Right now, only federal law prohibits that.

"I think it's important because we have a crime problem. No question it's our biggest issue in Savannah," said Petrea. "We have so many blessings in this city, so many positives, but our big negative is we have crime problem. Too many weapons are winding up in the hands of felons, and too often, they're being purchased for them and given to them by people who know they're felons and are giving them weapons in the first place. Those weapons are being used in crime."

The two options are on different ends of the spectrum, but both hope it addresses a violent crime problem in Savannah.

Petrea added that the federal law prohibiting giving a gun to a felon is rarely enforced. The issue of confiscated guns has been on the council's legislative agenda for several years now.

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