On the Beat with Lt. Berg

Lt-BergLt. J.W. Berg is Tucker’s liaison to the DeKalb County Police Department and can be contacted by email at jwberg@dekalbcountyga.gov or by phone at (678) 597-9040.

Earlier this year, Governor Brian Kemp signed SB 319 into law. Otherwise known as the “Constitutional Carry” law, this legislation gave most residents of Georgia the ability to carry a firearm concealed on their person - without having to obtain a permit. Even with this new law on the books, however, it is still illegal for convicted felons, minors, and those persons who have been treated recently for mental health or substance abuse to carry or possess a firearm. It is also still illegal to carry a firearm inside secured areas of airports and government buildings. While I certainly do not want to wade into a debate about the merits of this new law, or gun control in general, the fact is that this new legislation is something we will all have to learn to live with.

If you possess a firearm, whether you carry it on your person or store it in your home or business, I would like to encourage you to learn to handle it safely. To me, this means traveling to a firearms range on a regular basis and practicing handling and firing your weapon. Most law enforcement officers (including those with DKPD) are required to have several weeks of firearms training prior to becoming certified. Once they begin their careers, police officers in Georgia are also required to “re-qualify” with their firearm at least twice a year. In Dekalb County, we are very fortunate that our Department provides a bi-weekly allocation of practice ammunition to utilize in maintaining our firearm proficiency.

There are many great private firearm ranges in the Atlanta metropolitan area. Many of these ranges offer classes in gun safety and have leagues or clubs where like-minded persons can gather to learn how to more effectively – and safely – handle their firearms. Over the years, I’ve met many of the employees at these ranges, several of whom are law enforcement retirees, who are dedicated to providing their customers information and training to ensure the safety of everyone, both on and off the range.

I want to take a moment to ask all gun owners one favor. As I mentioned in my December 2021 article, the most common crime that our officers deal with on a daily basis are Entering Automobiles, also known as car “break-ins”. This crime is extremely difficult to predict and prevent given the thousands of vehicles parked around our city on a daily basis. Sadly, a frequently stolen item from these automobiles is - you guessed it- firearms.

I can vividly remember one report I reviewed a few years ago where six high-powered rifles were taken from a vehicle that had been parked overnight at a local hotel. The only way to have prevented the theft of these firearms that night was to not store them in the vehicle. So, my one request is this: I would like to kindly ask all firearm owners to limit the amount of time you store your firearm inside your vehicle. Again, with SB 319, your firearm can now be stored on your person, preferably in an approved holster.

One final point I’d like to make regarding firearms and law enforcement: at most police departments across the United States, police officers are required to be armed at all times. This means that in every encounter we have with our citizenry, there is at least one gun present - ours. Now with the newer laws around the country and in Georgia, more of our citizenry will have the right to also “carry” a firearm. I am not debating the merits of these laws or whether this makes us safer overall. My only point is that there will now be more encounters with law enforcement where both parties are armed.

If you do happen to encounter a law enforcement officer while armed, and if the circumstances allow, I ask that you inform him or her of your armed status. We don’t want there to be any surprises or misunderstandings about who you are or why you are armed. Just as importantly, there is no need to reach for your firearm or pick up your firearm unless directed to do so by the officer.

Most of us in law enforcement understand that some of our citizens will be armed just as we are. However, it is still vital that we be allowed to complete our jobs in a safe and secure way. We want everyone we encounter to lead protected and productive lives. Indeed, that is our mission – to make the world better and safer for everyone, including ourselves.

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