Published Thursday, January 31, 2013

Monuments, Georgia-made gun bills introduced

By WALTER C. JONES

Morris News Service

ATLANTA – Legislation introduced Tuesday would prohibit local governments from hiding monuments they are no longer proud of.

The measure, House Bill 91, is designed to safeguard statues, plaques and other markers recognizing revolutionary or Confederate heroes from modern sensibilities that may object to views on race held in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, introduced the proposal at the request of the Sons of the American Revolution and the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The bill, if passed, would require that monuments be kept in a prominent place.

"We're not saying they can't move them," Benton said. "We're just saying they can't just put them in a field somewhere."

He also introduced a separate bill that would require property owners to give access to the families of people buried in private cemeteries on their land. He said many families have been frustrated that they can't get permission to tend the graves of their ancestors because those who now own the land surrounding the family plots refuse.

• Bill would exempt Georgia-made guns

Guns made in Georgia and sold only within the state would be exempt from federal rules or registration under House Bill 89, introduced Tuesday.

Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, said the state could choose to institute its own regulation of firearms for those that would not be covered under federal law, should his bill pass.

"Basically, the bill is saying the interstate-commerce clause (of the U.S. Constitution) doesn't apply to these weapons," he said.

The Constitution grants sole power to the federal government to oversee the sales of goods and services across state lines, known as interstate commerce. It was originally designed to prevent states from imposing tariffs on each other's' goods, but in the last 50 years, it has been used to control activities from racial segregation to healthcare.

Benton argues that as long as these weapons aren't sold out of state, the federal rules should not apply to them.

In the aftermath of the shooting of 26 people at a school in Connecticut, President Barack Obama and others have called for greater controls on guns. 

"I don't agree with the rhetoric coming out of Washington that we need more gun laws," Benton said.

His is one of several proposals pending in the legislature that would relax gun controls. At the same time, there are alternative proposals that would toughen them.

None have been schedule for consideration in the committees they have been assigned to.

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