Author: J. Lee Weems

Chief Deputy of the Oconee County (GA) Sheriff's Office GA POST General & Firearms Instructor, FBI Police Firearms Instructor, Instructor of Political Science

Familiarity Breeds Contempt

I grew up primarily on what had been my grandfather’s dairy.  My father harped on me when dealing with the livestock, “Familiarity breeds contempt”.

The meaning of that saying was just as soon as you started thinking one of the livestock wouldn’t hurt you, it would hurt you.  It was more than just words.  My grandfather was killed by one of his cows.

I ignored the rule at least twice.  I wound up unconscious both times.  The first words my father said to me on each occasion, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”

Today, I dealt with a guy whom we had arrested previously.  He has an active protective order against him.  In that encounter, he tried to bait me into an escalation.  Later in the day, I responded to a call with the same subject.  He entered a residence from which he is prohibited, and he busted out the windshield of a car on scene as well along with some other damage.

The subject fled to a nearby vacant house.  It was there that I confronted him.  He screamed at me to shoot him.

And then he shoved his hand into his jacket pocket.

I had a decision to make and only a split second in which to make it.  I was pretty sure that he was just baiting me.  I  was pretty sure that he didn’t have a firearm in his pocket, but in a moment of tachypsychia I heard my father’s voice..

Familiarity breeds contempt.

Later when I talked about the incident with the Sheriff, he said, “If you hadn’t just dealt with him and knew his state of mind, or if it had been another deputy who confronted him in that house, he’d be dead right now.”

I had to make a split-second decision as to whether or not to press the trigger.  Legally, I can articulate a justification for doing so, but if I had, I’d be the latest cop to be plastered all over the news as having killed an unarmed man.  If he had been armed, and my “pretty sure” was wrong, I would have been in initiative deficit, and I might be all over the news tonight for a much different reason.

While I have been able to wrap this whole thing around a saying from my upbringing, this type of incident plays out repeatedly for peace officers all over the country.  It really is that close of a call time and time again.

As another saying goes: It’s not the odds; it’s the stakes.

Firearms Registration in Georgia

Perhaps I should have titled this piece “There Is No Firearms Registration in Georgia” because that is the case.  Please understand that this piece is not an argument in favor of or a call for such a system.  It is simply informational.

Frequently, citizens will come by the Sheriff’s Office because they have lawfully received a firearm and want to “register” it. The fact of the matter is that there is no method or mechanism for firearms registration in Georgia.  There is no means to register a particular firearm to a particular person.

In a previous piece about the so-called “gun show loophole“, I discussed the fact that firearms sales by licensed dealers are governed by the same rules whether at a gun show or their normal place of business and that such sales by private citizens are governed by the same applicable laws governing private sales at any other time.  When a firearm passes through the hands of a licensed dealer and is transferred to another owner a form 4473 is completed.  This creates a record of the transaction but it does not “register” the firearm.  In Georgia, private parties can sell a firearms to other private parties without the transaction having to go through a federally licensed firearms dealer.  The laws concerning private sales vary from state to state.

When a gun is traced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF); the agency is simply going through its records and checking for the form 4473.  This check will only be able to track the instances in which the firearm in question passed through the inventory of a licensed dealer.  It will not track legal transactions made by private parties in states where private parties can sell firearms without having to go through a licensed dealer.  Therefore, if a Georgia resident buys a firearm from a licensed dealer and then sells it in a private party transaction, an ATF trace would show the firearm having been transferred to the original purchaser alone.

While it is understandable that private citizens might confused on this subject, it is troublesome that apparently there are law enforcement agencies in Georgia that get this wrong.  I recently learned of a instance in Georgia in which an agency is refusing to return a recovered stolen firearm to its rightful owner. The agency returned the other recovered items to the victim, but they are withholding the firearm.  The reason they are giving is that the ATF trace shows the firearm as being “registered” to another individual.  I used the plural in the first sentence in this paragraph because I know of at least one other agency using a similar approach.

I wonder if they made the victim show proof of registration for the other items?  Why is it that some items that the victim possessed legally were stolen, recovered, and returned but an item that victim owned legally was stolen, recovered, but withheld?  This is a fundamentally illogical approach.