Georgia Says

Savannah (Ga.) Morning News on needing to re-do tags:

It's healthy for Georgians to know their history. This includes Southern history. It's part of the glue that helps bind this region of the country, along with the people who call it home.

For that reason, it's disheartening to see the controversy that has erupted over a specialty license plate that the Georgia Department of Revenue recently approved for Peach State motorists. It was completely avoidable.

Unfortunately, revenue department officials who were asleep at the switch recently gave their blessing to a new tag that shows a large Confederate battle flag in the background, covering the entire plate. The Sons of Confederate Veterans, a heritage group, sought the change. The new tag replaces an older specialty tag that includes the group's official emblem, which incorporates a smaller version of the battle flag.

It's unclear why the Sons sought the gaudier tag. The old one was tasteful and respectful. It allowed members of the organization to show their pride in their heritage, while not offending those who are understandably offended by what the battle flag has sometimes symbolized — hate and division.

That's critical. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, racist groups like the Ku Klux Klan hijacked the battle flag. It became part of their brand. So while some Georgians look at this flag and see honor and self-sacrifice, others see pure malevolence. Both observations are correct.

More puzzling is why Revenue Commissioner Douglas J. MacGinnitie, a seemingly intelligent bureaucrat, would approve a more strident, in-your-face version of the state tag. A state tag isn't a bumper sticker. It's an official statement of state government.

The commissioner must not remember the painful — but necessary — effort a dozen years ago to remove the battle flag from Georgia's state flag. It helped cost a sitting governor, Roy Barnes, a second term in 2002. This change righted a wrong that occurred in 1956, when lawmakers added the battle flag at a time when many white Southerners felt threatened by the growing civil rights movement. No one in their right minds wants to revisit that era, stir up dormant passions or needlessly divide Georgians — especially Gov. Nathan Deal, who's running for re-election this year.

Deal said he wasn't aware that MacGinnitie, one of his appointees, approved a flashier tag that has angered groups like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

"I'll have to talk to them about it," Deal said. We hope he does.

We also hope he orders a re-do.

If anything, the newer tag design is redundant. It duplicates an image that's already on the tag. But if MacGinnitie wants to ramp things up for the Sons, then he should endorse the official Confederate flag for the tag's background. This flag, known as the Stars and Bars, was incorporated into Georgia's state flag in 2003.

It offends no one.

More importantly, it shows the proper respect for history.

The Telegraph, Macon, Ga., on airport security not a Second Amendment debate:

There are lawmakers in Atlanta who will stoop to any lengths to kowtow to the gun-toting public, particularly its leadership. However, even the gun-toting public understands when something is going a little too far.

There have been attempts in Georgia to allow students with gun carry permits to brandish their weapons on college campuses over the objections of college presidents. A few sessions ago, there was a push to allow employees to bring weapons on their jobs against the will of their employers. And there was another push to allow guns in airports. Fortunately, those attempts failed.

Now there is a proposal to allow weapons in churches and bars — something even the gun-toting public sees as problematic — yet it passed the House on Tuesday. And there are lawmakers who want to give those caught in the screening process with a weapon at airports a pass.

This effort, unlike the others, is not a legitimate Second Amendment debate. As the old saw states: "Ignorance of the law is no excuse." Sure, there are some people who simply forget they are packing a firearm, just as there are those who forget the speed limit is 55 mph. Those offenders are handed a ticket and pay fines.

We won't talk about irresponsible behavior as state Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta, did when asked about the proposal to let those who "innocently" forget they have a weapon to go free. "If we have people who are so indifferent and careless with their weapon that they can stand up with a straight face and say, 'Oh I forgot I had a weapon on me,' that's not the sort of person who should be carrying a weapon," Orrock said.

Counsel representing airport screeners also think the proposal is a dangerous idea, and they have good reason to be worried. One of their own was cut down at Los Angeles International Airport last November. Passengers flying into and out of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport should be particularly concerned. More weapons were confiscated in Atlanta during screenings than at New York's Kennedy, Chicago's O'Hare, Miami International's and Los Angeles' airports combined.

Lawmakers may get the thumbs up in certain quarters for their efforts to liberalize penalties in this respect, and it may help prove their firearm bona fides, but it does nothing to improve their standing in the eyes of those who cherish the Second Amendment.



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