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Georgia lawmaker amends proposed bill addressing guns and divorce

No matter how rancorous a divorce may be, thankfully for most Georgians, the relationship between the estranged spouses doesn't devolve into physical violence. Nonetheless, one Georgia state lawmaker attracted a considerable amount of attention last month when he proposed legislation that would make buying a gun during a divorce a misdemeanor unless it was approved by the judge hearing the divorce case.

Cobb County State Senator Michael Rhett, who has worked with domestic violence victims at the City of Refuge in Atlanta, says he was moved to pre-file the bill by the shooting of a Fulton County prosecutor last year. She was shot by her estranged husband multiple times.

Needless to say, Sen. Rhett's proposed legislation was met with criticism by many Georgians who felt that it went too far. Now he has modified it so that it would apply only to people who have had a petition for relief or protective order filed against them during their divorce proceedings.

Neither version of the bill involved taking weapons away from people who already have them. Only the purchase of new ones could be impacted.

Under the current proposed legislation, a judge considering whether or not to grant approval for a weapon purchase would look at a person's propensity toward violence as well as his or her mental stability. This might involve a "court ordered psychological evaluation."

It should be noted that under federal law, a person who is the subject of a protective order can be prohibited from having guns. In Georgia, that's not an automatic protection. However, a person who files such an order can make that request in the petition. The decision is up to the judge.

The impending end of a marriage can bring out the worst in some people. Anger, frustration, depression, jealousy and loss can cause them to act in ways that may seem out of character, but can nonetheless be dangerous.

If you are concerned for your safety and/or that of other family members in the midst of a divorce, you should immediately talk with your family law attorney about obtaining a family violence protective order. He or she can also help you take other steps if necessary to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Source: WABE, "Georgia Gun Bill Narrows Focus On Domestic Violence," Tasnim Shamma, Jan. 08, 2016

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Margaret Gettle Washburn, P.C.
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