The shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick has prompted state Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula, to reiterate calls for the Georgia Senate to pass a hate crimes bill previously passed by the Georgia House of Representatives.
Efstration, who is chairman of the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, said the Senate should quickly take up House Bill 426 when the Georgia General Assembly reconvenes this summer. The bill, also known as the Georgia Hate Crimes Act, was passed by the Georgia House last year, but it is still sitting in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“For two years, I have been working to pass a hate crimes law in Georgia,” said Chairman Efstration. “Speaker David Ralston made this bipartisan bill a priority in the Georgia House of Representatives last year, and I am calling on the State Senate to pass House Bill 426 as soon as possible.”
Efstration said the shooting of Arbery has given new urgency to efforts to pass the bill. The death of Arbery, a black man, has drawn international attention after video emerged of him being shot in the middle of a road after a run in with a father and son, who are white, in February.
No charges have been filed in the case but the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is now investigating the incident. The GBI announced the arrests of Gregory and Travis McMichael on murder and aggravated assault charges in Arbery’s death Thursday night.
“Members of the Georgia House will be monitoring the Ahmaud Arbery case to see if we may need to review the law on ‘citizen arrests’ and other issues,” added Chairman Efstration. “It is now time for the Georgia Senate to do the right thing and pass the Georgia Hate Crimes Act without delay.”
There is already a federal hate crimes law, but 46 other states also have hate crime laws of their own. The Georgia Hate Crimes Act is alive in the General Assembly remains alive until the end of the 2019-2020 legislative term, which will end once the 2020 legislative session ends.
The legislative session was suspended in March because of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic, but legislators are expected to reconvene in June in order to address pressing legislative needs, such as the need to pass the state’s 2021 budget.
The Arbery shooting has generated shock among state officials, with Gov. Brian Kemp telling reporters at the state Capitol on Thursday that he has seen the video of the shooting. It is “absolutely horrific,” according to the governor.
“Georgians deserve answers,” Kemp said. “I have confidence in Vic Reynolds and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. I know they will work around the clock to thoroughly and independently investigate Mr. Arbery’s death to find the truth. In these moments, please pray for his loved ones, the local community, and our state.”