Georgia Voices: Enforcing gun laws beats passing new ones
by The Savannah Morning News
March 25, 2014 12:00 AM | 1826 views | 0 0 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print
U.S. District Senior Judge B. Avant Edenfield calls it “somewhat troubling” that a convicted felon who’s employed as a city of Savannah water department employee was arrested for carrying a handgun.

He’s too judicious.

This situation isn’t somewhat troubling. It’s flat-out dangerous. Armed felons are why law-abiding people avoid certain streets at night and certain neighborhoods during the day. They’re why passing more gun laws tend to do little good and why violent crime rates are too high.

The city employee, David Thompson, 32, pleaded guilty last October to possession of a firearm — a 9mm Smith & Wesson. The feds consider it one of the top 10 weapons preferred by criminals.

A convicted felon is barred from using or possessing a firearm or dangerous weapon. Of course, that doesn’t stop many of them from doing it. They’re betting they won’t get caught.

And they usually aren’t. But in this instance, police stopped Thompson in a car last April for not wearing a seatbelt and for a window-tint violation. The officer smelled marijuana, and Thompson admitted to smoking a marijuana cigar.

He then volunteered that he was packing, too. So give him a point for honesty. But then subtract about a zillion points for Grade A baloney for saying he was carrying the gun to protect his family. Really?

Police said they found seven credit cards from seven different people in the vehicle. They found a digital scale commonly used in drug transactions. They found 1.4 grams of weed.

They also found 38 rounds of ammo. It sounded like Thompson need protection, all right — perhaps from others who were breaking the law.

Incredulously, Thompson was married to a Metro cop. If that’s not sufficient protection against most kinds of violence, nothing is.

The city’s personnel policies don’t prevent a convicted felon from working for the city. That’s fair. People who have paid their debts to society — and who follow society’s rules — deserve an opportunity to become contributing members of society.

But those who haven’t learned any lessons don’t deserve any breaks. This case also raises more red flags about the troubled Metro police department: How many cops are married to convicted felons? Does the city know about it? What is being done to make sure public safety isn’t compromised?

Prosecutors said the defendant’s criminal history dates back to when he was 17. A spokesman for the city said Thompson didn’t interact with the public in his job. But that’s of little comfort. He was someone who knew it was wrong to carry a gun. And he did it anyway.

David Thompson is proof of why just passing gun laws doesn’t work. They must be enforced. Otherwise, the wrong people will continue to ignore them, as was the case here.

Judge Edenfield sentenced Thompson to 10 years in custody, a $4,800 fine and three years on supervised release. It probably won’t stop others from breaking the law. But it can’t hurt.

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