The media are using terms like “radical” and “extreme” to criticize the gun rights legislation signed today by Governor Nathan Deal, which clarifies and expands Georgia law regarding the lawful carry of a concealed weapon. Georgia has issued weapon carry permits for many years but they came with a list of restricted areas and undue burdens such as the requirement of fingerprinting for every renewal period. The new law seeks to alleviate these burdens and clarify state preemption laws to prevent local municipalities from placing a patchwork of restrictions around the state which make it difficult for citizens to always be in compliance with the law.
Fox News provides a brief overview of the changes, though I’ll emphasize this is very brief:
The bill, described by the National Rifle Association’s lobbying arm as “the most comprehensive pro-gun reform legislation introduced in recent state history,” expands the scope of public places where licensed owners are allowed to carry firearms.
The bill makes several changes to state law. It allows those with a license to carry to bring a gun into a bar without restriction and into some government buildings that don’t have certain security measures. It also allows religious leaders to decide whether it’s OK for a person with a carry license to bring a gun into their place of worship.
Under the bill, school districts would now be able, if they wanted, to allow some employees to carry a firearm under certain conditions. The bill also eliminates the fingerprinting requirement for renewing weapons carry licenses.
For more information, see this document (PDF) from the Georgia Senate, which provides greater detail and accurate information about the law’s provisions. Do not trust much of what you’ll see peddled in most mainstream news outlets as it will be watered down to the most “shocking” provisions of the law which likely aren’t being reported accurately to begin with.
The media and anti-gun organizations have gone to great lengths of distorting, misrepresenting, and outright lying about the specifics of the law. One of the biggest points of contention is the claim that this law allows unfettered carry onto school property. That is simply not true as stated in the law. Local school officials will have the option to provide written permission for specific individuals to carry a weapon on school grounds. This could be private security, school resource officers, parents, or school staff. This is a step in the right direction to eliminate the death traps known as “gun free school zones.”
Another largely distorted provision removes bars off the list of restricted places which a weapons permit holder can legally carry. Critics argue that allowing guns in bars will immediately lead to drunken shootouts on a daily basis. As a citizen of the Commonwealth of Virginia, I can assure you this argument has been made and disproved time and time again. Virginia eliminated the same restriction on bars (or any restaurant that serves alcohol) in 2010 and the result has been nothing short of unnoticeable. The same opponents crying foul in Georgia were on hand in Virginia making the same false claims and misrepresentations.
The question of allowing guns into places of worship is another area where the anti-gun establishment is seeking create fear and concern. Again, I’ll point back to my home state where, in 2011, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli clarified state law to allow for concealed weapons in a place of worship under the banner of self-defense. Once again, the result has not produced an increase in church-related shootings. To the contrary, it is likely making mass gatherings of the faithful safer than they were previously as a “gun free zone.”
The caveat with all these new allowances is that it is up to the property authority, either a school board or a private owner, to allow or disallow weapons as they see fit. A church can post a “no guns” sign and be under legal authority to do so since it is private property. If bar owners don’t want weapons in their bars, they can post a sign. The same applies to schools where officials can simply continue operating under the “gun free zone” banner if they choose.
Another hot topic is the expansion of Georgia’s “stand your ground” law which is included in this legislation. This type of law was made famous during the George Zimmerman trial in Florida despite that case having little to do with the specific statute. Georgia already had a health “stand your ground” statute on the books which eliminated the threat of prosecution for the use of a deadly weapon in self-defense. The new law simply removes the threat of prosecution in cases where a the victim was not legally carrying a weapon at the time of its use. Again, a minor change but one which will be harped on by the anti-gun crowd.
The bottom line, to quote Governor Deal, is that the “Second Amendment should never be an afterthought,” rather, it “should be at the forefront of our minds.” These changes seem monumental to the gun grabbers because they are incremental steps which reduce infringement on the Second Amendment. In reality, these are minor changes which simply let common sense prevail as they give more freedom to citizens who are already complying with the law.