The Georgia House unanimously passed a bill Monday that would repeal the state’s citizen’s arrest law, following the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick last year.
The law was applied to help the men now in jail for Arbery’s killing avoid prosecution for months. It allows any Georgian to “arrest” another if they witness a crime, and Arbery’s killers argued they were chasing him after he committed a burglary. However, there has been no evidence Arbery committed such a burglary.
Republican State Rep. Bert Reeves carried the bill on behalf of Gov. Brian Kemp, who has made changing the antiquated law a priority.
“In this General Assembly in 2021, every single one of us have the opportunity to take part in Ahmaud’s legacy. And we owe that to his mother, we owe that to his father and all of his friends and family and loved ones. And we owe it to Ahmaud,” Reeves said.
“I want us all to rise to the occasion and let’s rewrite a law from history. But let’s also rewrite future history in Georgia.”
Democratic State Rep. Park Cannon suggested naming the bill for Arbery, which Reeves called a “great idea” that he would work on as the bill moves to the state Senate, where it needs approval before becoming law.
Kemp called the measure “an important step in our efforts to root out injustice in the Peach State, while also protecting the sacred right to defend oneself and others.” He said it would prevent “rogue vigilantism from threatening the security and God-given potential of all Georgians.”
The proposal repeals the existing language and replaces it with limited forms of citizen detention, such as a shopkeeper who witnesses a theft, and prohibits all use of force unless in case of self-defense.
“The time has come. No wrong ever reaches the point where it can’t be made right,” said Democratic state Rep. Al Williams. “This is the time to be a shining example.”
“When this tragedy happened, our community couldn’t believe that it happened,” said Republican state Rep. Don Hogan, who was an early supporter of the measure and represents the coastal Georgia area where Arbery was from. “That was a heinous crime that was committed against a young man who is a citizen in my community.”
“It’s the right thing to do. It’s an old [law]. It’s outdated. We have no need for it,” Hogan said of the repeal.