SECOND AMENDMENT VICTORY: Georgia Governor Extends Citizens’ Gun Rights

On April 23rd, 2014, Georgia Governor NATHAN DEAL signed into law HOUSE BILL 60 (the “Safe Carry Protection Act”). Going into effect on July 1st, 2014, the law will allow LICENSED firearm owners in Georgia (as well as visitors from 28 other states) to carry a gun into bars, churches, schools and certain government buildings without restrictions.

“Our state has some of the best protections for gun owners in the United States. And today, we strengthen those rights protected by our nation’s most revered founding document,” Deal said in signing the bill.

Schools will now have the option of allowing their staff members to carry firearms. Churches, synagogues, mosques and places of worship will also have the option of allowing their patrons to carry firearms.

“People who follow the rules can protect themselves and their families from people who don’t follow the rules,” said Deal, adding: “The Second Amendment should never be an afterthought. It should reside at the forefronts of our minds.”

The introduction and passage of the bill was extremely controversial, as is the issue of gun control in general. Since January 1st, 2014, 6 states have eased gun laws, 6 states have strengthened them and 4 states have both eased and strengthened firearm laws, according to LAURA CUTILLETTA, senior staff attorney at the San Francisco-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

The bill, sponsored by Georgia State Representative DOUG HOLT and Senator RONALD B. RAMSEY, SR., provoked intense debate. Both supporters and opponents flocked to the state. The NRA (National Rifle Association) called it “the most comprehensive pro-gun reform legislation introduced in recent history.” The gun rights group believes that the bill will “restore our right to carry and be allowed to protect ourselves anywhere we go,” according to executive director JERRY HENRY.

Opponents of the bill included Americans for Responsible Solutions, the group co-founded by former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, which called it the nation’s most extreme gun bill and said that it “moves Georgia out of the mainstream.” Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America also lobbied against the bill. It’s “a very, very dangerous kill bill,” said their national spokeswoman, LUCIA MCBATH, whose 17-year-old son, JORDAN DAVIS, was tragically killed in November of 2012 in Jacksonville, Florida in a dispute over loud music.

The bill also drew some in-state opposition. People will be able to carry firearms in government buildings that don’t have metal detectors, such as city halls, libraries, recreational centers, city office buildings and fire stations. The GMA (Georgia Municipal Association), which represents the state’s 538 cities, asked Deal to veto the bill. “Local elected officials are responsible for securing and maintaining public safety and insurance coverage in buildings owned and operated by the city. Therefore, they should have the authority to make a decision about whether to allow weapons in such buildings,” said The GMA in a recent letter to the Georgia Governor.

The new law also REMOVES a restriction that had previously prevented citizens who had been convicted of certain misdemeanors from obtaining a gun permit. And in a provision that has some law enforcement officials concerned, police will NOT be able to detain a person “for the sole purpose of investigating whether such a person has a weapons carry license.” [Remember: simply CARRYING a gun is NOT a crime, no matter HOW others react to it!]

The bill had failed in three previous legislative sessions, but passed late on the night of March 20th, 2014; the session’s final day of the year. “There are always opportunities for people to use any piece of legislation as a political tool if they don’t like it, but there was bipartisan support for the bill. The main story that should come out of it is the final product is significantly different from earlier versions, and some of the more interesting parts were removed,” said Deal.

“The important premise we all should remember is these are people who have their fingerprints taken, their backgrounds checked and they have been licensed to carry a weapon. It’s not just someone walking out of the clear blue with none of those background checks. They’ve been subjected to scrutiny of the state,” said Deal.

The bill also allows hunters in Georgia the prerogative to hunt using a muzzle suppressor (“silencer”).

To some groups, though, even word of Deal’s impending signature wasn’t enough. Georgia Gun Owners, one of the more strident Second Amendment groups, told members on Facebook they shouldn’t feel obligated to attend the signing ceremony with Deal and House Speaker DAVID RALSTON. It called the duo “ethically-challenged, Big Government moderate Republicans.” Saying:

Gun owners should be congratulated for your enormous pressure put on the General Assembly . . . but shouldn’t feel pressure to serve as a political prop for two lifetime politicians looking for political cover.”

State Representative RICK JASPERSE, a GOP sponsor of the bill, welcomes the attention. He told the hundreds of supporters, many wearing sidearms, to ignore the “misinformation” about the law.

“This bill is about the good guys – you guys,” he said.





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