By Debi Holcomb, Fannin Sentinel Staff Writer
Over fifty people attended the September 5 Mountain Patriots meeting in the Fannin County Senior Center. A light meal was provided.
Sheriff Dane Kirby said Chairman Lane Bishop asked him to speak to the group about Red Flag Laws and Kirby replied, “Lane, I don’t know a thing in the world about Red Flag Laws.” Kirby explained that he solicited District Attorney Allison Sosebee to research the subject and speak to the group.
Kirby updated the group on some issues he knows are facing Fannin County residents, such as phone scams and cybercrimes. He explained one of the most common around the state now is ransom virus. Criminals break into your computer system, infect the system which will lock it up, call you and tell you they will fix it for a high dollar amount. Kirby said county governments have been affected, the most recent Henry County. Jackson County actually paid $500,000 to retrieve their files after a ransom demand.
Georgia State Patrol has been infected and their systems are still shut down. Kirby says if the criminals can get through government firewalls, the average citizen is very much at risk.
Kirby stated that local business have also been hit by clicking on unsafe attachments in emails and have paid out thousands of dollars. Kirby said the FBI and GBI have not had much success in tracking down these problems. He feels educating the public to constantly be diligent is the only thing he and his office can do at this time.
Kirby said, “We are getting ready to do some, I’ll call it ‘redirection of our efforts’ when it comes to the drug enforcement world. We have disbanded our local drug task force. Fannin County and Gilmer County are getting ready to enter into an agreement with the GBI task force which is based out of Cleveland, GA. I am very excited about getting the ball rolling and getting up and operating.”
Kirby also discussed the budget process coming up and he said he has asked for a 15 percent increase for all employees, which would bring them in line with surrounding local counties. When asked what residents could do to help Kirby get the requested salary increase, he said he was putting his trust in the Commissioners that they would do the right thing.
Sosebee then spoke about her research on Red Flag Laws. She found that in some states, legislation has been passed that only law enforcement officers can report someone as being a danger to themselves or others and request the removal of firearms. In other states, a family member, household member, teacher, school administrator, co-worker, medical professional or law enforcement could make the request.
Currently there are 17 states plus the District of Columbia who have enacted one form or another of Red Flag Laws. None are uniform. Georgia is not one of the states at this time.
Sosebee discussed the gun control act of 1968 which already made owning a firearm illegal by convicted felons, misdemeanor convicted domestic abuse and mentally ill persons. She pointed out that the existing law already covered the same issues proposed Red Flag Laws were intended to cover and asked why new legislation would need to be enacted.
“But one of the biggest concerns that I have from looking through this, is trying to see and hoping that our state would find a way to work within our existing legislation as opposed to creating entirely new legislation,” said Sosebee.
Many attendees asked questions, Sosebee was patient in answering and was quite candid with her answers.
Mountain Patriots meet the first Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. in the Fannin County Senior Center.