ATLANTA, Ga. (Dec. 18, 2020) – A bill prefiled in the Georgia House would put limits on state and local law enforcement agencies’ ability to acquire certain military equipment from federal programs.

Rep. Sandra Scott (D-Rex) filed House Bill 16 (HB16) last month. The legislation would prohibit a state or local law enforcement agency from acquiring or possessing the following military equipment.

(1) Controlled firearms, ammunition, grenades, or explosives, including, but not limited to, stun grenades and flash-bang grenades
(2) Controlled vehicles, highly mobile multi-wheeled vehicles, mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, trucks, truck sump, truck utility, or truck carryall
(3) Unmanned aircraft that are armored or weaponized
(4) Controlled aircraft that are combat configured or combat coded or have no established commercial flight application
(5) Silencers
(6) Long-range acoustic devices

Any police department in violation of the law would be subject to the withholding of any state funding or state-administered federal funding.

The legislation applies both to the well-known 1033 program, along with any other military surplus program operated by the federal government, as well as federal programs that fund the acquisition of surplus military equipment.

While the enactment of HB16 would not end the militarization of local cops, it would keep some dangerous weapons out of the hands of police officers and set the stage for further limits in the future.

FEDERAL SURPLUS AND GRANT MONEY

Through the federal 1033 Program, local police departments procure military-grade weapons. Police can also get military equipment through the Department of Homeland Security via the (DHS) “Homeland Security Grant Program.” The DHS doles out over $1 billion in counterterrorism funds to state and local police each year. According to a 2012 Senate report, this money has been used to purchase tactical vehicles, drones, and even tanks with little obvious benefit to public safety. And, according to ProPublica, “In 1994, the Justice Department and the Pentagon-funded a five-year program to adapt military security and surveillance technology for local police departments that they would otherwise not be able to afford.”

In August 2017, President Trump issued an executive order that gave a push to local police militarization. Trump’s action rescinded an Obama-era policy meant to provide greater transparency and oversight around the Department of Defense 1033 program and other federal resources that provide military weapons to local police.

Passage of HB16 would limit Georgia’s participation in federal police militarization programs.

COMMAND AND CONTROL

Arming ‘peace officers’ like they’re ready to occupy an enemy city is totally contrary to the society envisioned by the founders. They’ve turned ‘protect and serve’ into ‘command and control.’

In the 1980s, the federal government began arming, funding and training local police forces, turning peace officers into soldiers to fight in its unconstitutional “War on Drugs.” The militarization went into hyper-drive after 9/11 when a second front opened up – the “War on Terror.”

By making it more difficult for local police to get this military-grade gear, they become less likely to cooperate with the feds, and it also removes incentives for partnerships. Passage of HB16 would take a first step toward limiting police militarization in Georgia.

WHAT’S NEXT

HB16 will be officially introduced when the Georgia State Legislature convenes on Jan. 11. At that time, the bill will be referred to a committee where it must pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.

Mike Maharrey

The 10th Amendment

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