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Georgia lawmakers likely to address swatting following recent incidents

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(The Center Square) — Georgia lawmakers will assuredly consider a measure to tackle swatting following a spate of incidents targeting Georgia lawmakers.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger wants lawmakers to consider legislation he proposed in 2016 as a member of the state House — House Bill 790. It would have increased the penalty for transmitting a false public alarm, including a prison sentence of between one and 10 years.

The move comes after several Georgia officials were swatted during and since the Christmas holiday. State Sen. Clint Dixon, R-Buford; state Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell; state Sen. Kim Jackson, D-Stone Mountain; state Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, R-Marietta, Lt. Governor Burt Jones, a Republican, and Secretary of State COO Gabriel Sterling, were among the lawmakers swatted.

“Cowardice never wins,” Raffensperger said in a statement after at least eight state Capitols, including Georgia’s, received threats. “It is deeply troubling to see a rise in swatting and other physical threats.

“We expect heightened tensions as we head into a major presidential election,” Raffensperger added. “We expect American citizens to engage in the democratic process- not resort to cowardly acts of intimidation. We’re committed to upholding our democratic principles and fighting for an environment in which citizens can freely and safely participate.”

Dixon previously said he plans to push for stronger penalties for anyone who makes a swatting call, a hoax 911 call reporting a fake emergency prompting authorities to respond to an unsuspecting house.

“It’s already a crime,” Kirkpatrick told The Center Square via email. “The tricky part is finding the perpetrator(s) due to the phone technology they are using.”

The Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia identified OCGA 16-10-28 — “Transmitting a false public alarm” — as an existing statute prosecutors could use to tackle swatting.

According to Chalkboard News, the number of swatting calls is on the rise. The Center Square’s sister site reported that more than 400 “swatting incidents” were reported to the National Common Operation Picture, the FBI’s Virtual Command Center, between May 1 and Dec. 28.

“It’s a sad commentary on where we are that you’re willing to put law enforcement’s lives in danger, your political opponents’ lives in danger, their neighbors,” Kyle Wingfield, president and CEO of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, told The Center Square.

“Are you intentionally trying to get someone killed? Is it for laughs?” Wingfield added. “It’s disturbing on so many levels. Obviously, it takes a sick mind to want to do this. And you wonder, are they even thinking, ‘let’s get somebody killed,’ or did they just take some sort of bizarre pleasure in seeing this all play out?”

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