Repeal of controversial citizens’ arrest law one step closer to becoming reality

ATLANTA — Lawmakers got one step closer to repealing Georgia’s controversial citizens’ arrest law on Thursday -- more than a year since the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick.

Repealing that Civil War-era law has a lot of support from the governor’s office on down. But there is pushback from people worried about what they say are the bill’s unintended consequences.

The bill’s supporters say there wouldn’t be any.

Lawmakers heard testimony on repealing the law in a hearing room so small that, because of COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, spectators weren’t allowed inside. So, they watched it on a TV right outside instead.

One of those was J’lyn Furby. She used her phone to stream it live on her social media page.

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“We have to put the word out online and social networks and in networks you may not see anymore, to let people know what’s going on,” she said.

Furby is a former Air Force police officer who supports repealing the Civil War-era law used in the past to hunt down runaway slaves.

She told Channel 2 political reporter Richard Elliot that regular citizens just aren’t trained to detain people properly.

“That’s going to create a major issue in our state. We could see more cases like Ahmaud Arbery. So I think that’s very important,” Furby said.

The death of Arbery at the hands of men trying to detain him shocked Georgia and prompted lawmakers, including the governor, to push for the repeal of citizens’ arrest.

But the bill’s sponsor, Marietta Republican Bert Reeves, said he’s fighting pushback from people who think ending citizens’ arrest would mean stores couldn’t detain shoplifters or crime victims couldn’t detain their attacker -- all of which, he says, just isn’t true.

“It’s incumbent on Georgia to lead. This is an antiquated law. Its roots are shady, sketchy. It’s been used to defend a lot of very bad conduct for many, many decades,” Reeves said.

The bill passed out of the House Judiciary Committee unanimously on Thursday. It could get a vote by the full house Monday, which is Crossover Day.

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