Brandishing a firearm is generally considered a crime, and there’s a reason for that. People shouldn’t just flash their guns around at the least provocation. The appearance of a gun can cause panic, after all.
Well, maybe. There are times, though, when pulling a firearm is enough to end a potential threat before that threat becomes too bad. Yet the law usually doesn’t make that distinction.
Now, in Georgia, a bill that would legalize “brandishing” has made it through its first hurdle.
A Georgia Senate panel approved legislation late Monday that would make it legal for a gun owner to pull or show their firearm during a dispute as long as he or she doesn’t “aim it offensively” at someone.
State Sen. Tyler Harper, an Ocilla Republican, said the legislation addresses a variety of issues gun rights advocates have with the state’s carry laws. The bill, which was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 5-3 party-line vote, also would allow licensed gun owners to carry their weapons in churches and in courts when there are no judicial proceedings.
Under current law, a person who pulls a gun on someone faces a felony aggravated assault charge, which carries up to 20 years in prison.
“My argument is: just because I have a weapon on my person and I show that weapon, I should not be charged with a felony — a 20-year felony — for simply brandishing my firearm in my attempt to de-escalate what I consider a situation where I felt threatened,” Harper said.
Senate Bill 224 would require someone who displays or pulls a gun to aim that weapon at the person — or otherwise use it “in a threatening manner” — before he or she could be charged with felony aggravated assault.
Of course, one downside of the bill is that if it’s just you and the other guy with his buddies, it’s your word against theirs and you could still end up with an aggravated assault charge.
Not everyone is in favor of the bill, either.
State Sen. Harold Jones, an Augusta Democrat and a lawyer, said under current law prosecutors must prove murder is the intent of someone showing or pulling a gun before he or she can be found guilty of aggravated assault.
“A person who pulls their gun out and has it at their side — at their side — would not fit this new definition of aggravated assault,” Jones said. “I just don’t think we need to be doing that.”
If the law already allows someone to display a gun in a non-threatening manner–say, at their side–then what’s the problem? Why not just pass the bill so that the law explicitly says what Jones claims is already the case?
Well, the problem is that the ambiguity in the law stays hands. It keeps people from showing they have a gun, an act which may allow a situation to escalate to the point where that gun has to be shown. People like Jones don’t see it that way, though. He’s arguing how the law is used, but not how it was written.
Yet how a law is applied can change.
For example, Stand Your Ground was how Georgia’s self-defense law was interpreted for decades before anyone bothered to codify it. Yet now we have tons of people who want to repeal the law in so many states. If that law were repealed, would the old interpretation be allowed to stand?
Look, no one thinks pointing a gun at someone else over nothing is a good idea. It’s a bad way to go about things and we all recognize that.
But if showing you’re armed ends a confrontation before anyone gets hurt, that’s a big win.
Change the damn law so it protects people who save lives, even if it’s the life of the jackwagon trying to start something.