On Tuesday Georgia’s sweeping pro-carry law took effect, causing gun-rights organizations to celebrate and gun-control groups to cringe.
House Bill 60 otherwise known as the “Safe Carry Protection Act” is now law, which means concealed carry permit holders can tote firearms into bars, schools, colleges and churches provided the purveyors of the establishments give them the green light.
To put it another way, the new law essentially puts the question to proprietors, administrators and clergymen on whether they want their place to be gun-free or gun friendly. Those who want to be gun-free can simply post a “No guns allowed” sign to prohibit carry on the premises while those who value the right of self defense can allow patrons, students, staff and members to carry.
Additionally, the law allows CCW permit holders to into unsecured government buildings and airports, and erases penalties for law-abiding citizens who accidentally bring guns through TSA security checkpoints.
While the bill was greeted with skepticism in the national media, some outlets dubbed in the “guns everywhere bill,” fretting that it was too extreme, lawmakers in the state House and Senate overwhelming supported the measure.
Likewise, Gov. Nathan Deal enthusiastically endorsed the measure when he signed it into law this past April.
“For decades now I have staunchly defended our Second Amendment rights as both a legislator and as governor,” said Deal, at a press conference.
“This legislation will protect the constitutional rights of Georgians who have gone through a background check to legally obtain a Georgia Weapons Carry License,” he added. “This law gives added protections to those who have played by the rules – and who can protect themselves and others from those who don’t play by the rules.”
The National Rifle Association, which help paved the way for the bill’s passage, trumpeted the rollout as a victory for gun owners.
“This new law is an unequivocal expansion of Georgians’ Second Amendment Rights and Freedoms,” said NRA spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen in an email to Guns America.
“Law abiding gun owners are now protected from the state creating or maintaining a data base of Weapons Carry License (WCL) holders,” she continued. “Responsible gun owners now have an absolute defense for the legal use of deadly force in the face of a violent attack.”
“Furthermore, the right to self-defense will now be protected for all Georgians, whether they live in a gated community or in public housing,” said Mortensen, concluding that “The NRA will continue to work with law-abiding gun owners and like-minded citizens everywhere to expand freedom and the right to self-defense.”
Meanwhile, Everytown for Gun Safety, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s pro-gun control organization, vowed not to go quietly into that good night, promising to use its grassroots advocacy to encourage Georgia restaurants, schools and churches to go the gun-free route.
“While the gun lobby may have won the legislative battle, Georgia businesses, schools, places of worship, and other community organizations can fight back by prohibiting guns on their properties, and the members of the Georgia chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America are on a mission to ensure they know this,” said Piyali Cole, Georgia Chapter Leader Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, in an email to Guns America.
“All summer, we will be canvassing our communities and educating bar and restaurants that serve alcohol about their rights, and provide them with the necessary signage to prohibit guns in their establishments,” said Cole.
“That legislative battle was lost but the war is far from over,” she continued. “If our elected officials will not ensure the safety of our children and families in public places, moms will. We welcome all the citizens of Georgia—moms, dads, grandparents and supporters—to join us in this effort.”
To recap, and as the NRA-ILA observed, the Safe Carry Protection Act expanded gun rights in the following ways:
- Removal of fingerprinting for renewal of Weapons Carry Licenses (WCL).
- Prohibiting the state from creating and maintaining a database of WCL holders.
- Creation of an absolute defense for the legal use of deadly force in the face of a violent attack.
- Removal of the sweeping restrictions on legally carrying a firearm with a WCL in churches and bars, leaving this decision to private property owners.
- Lowering the age to obtain a concealed WCL for self-defense from 21 to 18 for active duty military, with specific training.
- Repealing the unnecessary and duplicative state-required license for a firearms dealer, instead requiring only a Federal Firearms License (FFL).
- Prohibiting a ban on firearms in public housing, ensuring that the right to self-defense should not be infringed based on where one calls home.
- Codifying the ability to legally carry, with a WCL, in sterile/non-secure areas of airports.
- Including a provision that would have the state report those persons who have been involuntarily hospitalized or have been adjudicated mentally deficient to the NICS system while also providing an ability for relief through an application process to the court system for the purpose of restoration of rights.
- Stating that under a declared state of emergency, all law-abiding gun owners will not have their Second Amendment rights restricted or infringed by executive authority through Emergency Powers protection.
- Strengthening current firearms preemption statutes through further clarification of the regulatory authority of local governments, excluding firearm discharge ordinances.