Georgia Passes Sweeping Expansion of Gun Carry Laws
opeland and Jon Shirek, USA TODAY, WXIA-TV, Atlanta
1:28 p.m. EDT April 23, 2014
ELLIIJAY, Ga. — It's legal for licensed gun owners in Georgia to pack
heat in bars, schools, churches and some government buildings.
Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, on Wednesday signed the state's "Safe
Carry Protection Act," which critics dubbed the "guns everywhere bill,"
in north Georgia, on the edge of the Chattahoochee National Forest and
Cohutta Wilderness area.
"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.
The new law, which goes into
effect July 1, allows licensed gun owners in Georgia and visitors from
28 other states to bring a gun into a bar without restrictions and carry
a firearm into some government buildings that don't have security
measures. It also allows school districts to decide whether they want
some employees to carry a firearm and religious leaders to decide
whether to allow licensed gun owners to tote to their church, synagogue
Deal signed the bill here because state House Speaker
David Ralston, who championed the measure in the state House, represents
the area, according to Deal's office.
The new law provoked
intense debate. Both supporters and opponents flocked to the state. The
National Rifle Association called it "the most comprehensive pro-gun
reform legislation introduced in recent history." The gun rights group
GeorgiaCarry.org believes the bill will "restore our right to carry and
be allowed to protect ourselves anywhere we go," according to executive
director Jerry Henry.
Opponents include Americans for Responsible
Solutions, the group co-founded by former Arizona congresswoman Gabby
Giffords, which called it the nation's most extreme gun bill and said 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 killed in November 2012 in
Jacksonville, Fla., in a dispute over loud music.
STORY: Ga.'s 'guns everywhere' law awaits governor's signature
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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 Georgia Municipal Association, which represents
the state's 538 cities, asked Deal to veto it. "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," GMA said in a letter to
The new law removes a restriction that prevented those
convicted of certain misdemeanors from getting 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."
As Deal signed
the bill in Ellijay, a community of 1,600 about 65 miles north of
Atlanta, the Georgia Gun Sense Coalition had an event in downtown
Atlanta that included a moment of silence for all gun victims. In 2011,
the most recent available, gunfire killed 1,175 people in Georgia,
including 443 who were murdered, according to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention.
The gun bill had failed in three previous
legislative sessions but passed late on the night of March 20, the
session's final day this year.
A year ago this month, a man in
Suwanee, Ga., faked a heart attack and took five Gwinnett County
firefighters hostage at gunpoint in his house, knowing that the
emergency responders would not be armed. Though the incident ended well
for the firefighters — a SWAT team rescued them four hours later but
killed the gunman — some Georgia legislators believe that this incident
provided the impetus for the legislation to pass.
the Newtown, Conn., school massacre Dec. 14, 2012, some states acted to
tighten gun restrictions while several others, including Georgia, moved
to loosen such restrictions.