Law proposed to punish people who knowingly provide guns to convicted felons

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

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - A state lawmaker and Chatham County's district attorney say a proposed law punishing people who give guns to felons will make a positive difference in Savannah.

Representative Jesse Petrea's proposed legislation makes it a felony to give a gun to a felon. Right now, it's only a misdemeanor.

The DA says the law really doesn't have any teeth either. There is a federal law prohibiting it but Rep. Petrea says the Feds rarely enforce it at a local level.

Lawrence Bryan IV was killed in August of 2015. His family still feels the pain of his death more than two years later.

"It was a horrific experience. We tell people, on August of 2015, we lost something that was precious and never going to be replaced," Linda Wilder-Bryan, the mother of Lawrence, said.

Earlier this year, Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department homicide detectives charged a man with the murder who was already in prison. The charges came a year and a half after the crime.

"It made me feel like they got the person, but it also made me feel like the person who did it didn't know how much that violence affects the whole family," Wilder-Bryan said.

The man charged is a convicted felon. This bill aims to make it harder for people like that to get a gun.

"This is the population we need to target if we're going to stop gun crime in this community and that's what this bill will do," Rep. Petrea said. "The problem in our community with gun crime is a very small demographic of felons who continue to create and commit crimes over and over again."

In Chatham County, the district attorney says a lot of our violent crimes are committed by people who shouldn't have guns. While this law seems like common sense, DA Meg Heap says it's long overdue.

"You're trying to get through the back door what the law is saying you can't do on the front side. So yeah, it makes sense. If you're not allowed to have, and somebody is going and purchasing it for you, then you're circumventing the law," Heap said.

For families like the Bryans, any law targeting felons and guns is a positive change in their eyes.

"People who knowingly give a weapon to a convicted felon, they should be underneath the jail," Wilder-Bryan said.

Rep. Petrea thinks the law, pre-filed as HB 657, has a good shot at passing with support from both parties. He admits the law isn't an end-all, be-all, but it is another tool for prosecutors.

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