Georgia law allows guns in some schools, bars, churches

Gov guns

ELLIJAY, Georgia (CNN) — Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed a wide-ranging gun bill into law Wednesday that has critics howling and proponents applauding.

House Bill 60, or the Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014 — which opponents have nicknamed the “guns everywhere bill” — specifies where Georgia residents can carry weapons.

Included are provisions that allow residents who have concealed carry permits to take guns into some bars, churches, school zones, government buildings and certain parts of airports.

GeorgiaCarry, which lobbied for the bill, calls it “meaningful pro-gun legislation,” despite it being watered down from the group’s perspective. Still, the group has lauded the legislation, which will go into effect July 1. Americans for Responsible Solutions opposed the bill, calling it “extremism in action.”

Wednesday’s signing came at an open-air picnic area along a creek in Ellijay, in northern Georgia. It opened with a prayer, the singing of the national anthem and a recital of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Hundreds of people filled more than 25 picnic tables, while others stood. Many were openly carrying handguns, and some wore National Rifle Association hats and buttons proclaiming, “Stop Gun Control” and “Guns Save Lives.”

The bill, which easily navigated the state legislature — by a 112-58 vote in the House and a 37-18 tally in the Senate — also earned the support of Democratic state Sen. Jason Carter, a gubernatorial candidate challenging Deal.

Calling it “a great day to reaffirm our liberties,” Deal said the law allows residents to protect their families and expands the list of places where they can legally carry firearms, while allowing certain property owners, namely churches and bars, to make judgments on whether they want worshippers and patrons carrying guns.

“The Second Amendment should never be an afterthought. It should be at the forefront of our minds,” Deal said while touting his NRA endorsement for governor and “A” rating during his 17 years in Congress.

The governor said the law “will protect the constitutional rights of Georgians who have gone through a background check to legally obtain a Georgia Weapons Carry License.

“Roughly 500,000 Georgia citizens have a permit of this kind, which is approximately 5 percent of our population. License holders have passed background checks and are in good standing with the law. 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.”

Americans for Responsible Solutions opposed the original bill that GeorgiaCarry pushed for, and while the group is pleased that the version Deal signed Wednesday doesn’t allow guns on college campuses or in churches, except in certain cases, it feels the legislation “takes Georgia out of the mainstream.”

“Among its many extreme provisions, it allows guns in TSA lines at the country’s busiest airport, forces community school boards into bitter, divisive debates about whether they should allow guns in their children’s classrooms, and broadens the conceal carry eligibility to people who have previously committed crimes with guns,” said Pia Carusone, the group’s senior adviser.

“So it is no surprise that while being trumpeted by the NRA as the ‘most comprehensive’ gun bill in state history, the legislation … was opposed by Georgia law enforcement, county commissioners, municipal leaders, and the Transportation Security Administration for its potentially harmful impact on Georgians’ safety.”

While the bill says no one is allowed to carry a firearm past an airport’s security screening checkpoint, it allows guns in other areas, including “an airport drive, general parking area, walkway, or shops and areas of the terminal that are outside the screening checkpoint.”

TSA spokesman Ross Feinstein would not say how the law might affect its agents at Georgia airports, particularly Atlanta’s, the world’s busiest, but he said, “Individuals who bring firearms to security checkpoints are referred to law enforcement and are subject to criminal penalties. However, TSA has the ability to impose a civil penalty.”

Another provision of the new law allows firearms into any government building that is open for business and doesn’t have security personnel restricting access or screening visitors.

Some critics have said it was hypocritical to allow guns in so many places but not the state Capitol. Deal addressed that perception in a question from reporters, saying the Capitol fell under a wider statewide provision that affects many government buildings, and it’s “a uniform carved-out area all across our state.”

The law also allows Georgians to carry guns into bars and churches as long as the property owner hasn’t banned them. Anyone bringing a gun into a church that prohibits them won’t be arrested but could pay a fine up to $100, the law says.

One church that won’t be allowing parishioners to carry weapons is Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, which remembers well the 1974 shooting deaths of a deacon and Alberta Williams King, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s mother, in its sanctuary.

The Rev. Raphael Warnock, the church’s senior pastor, said a deranged man who had access to guns but not health care was behind that shooting, a circumstance that still resonates today. The shooting would have been even more tragic “had everyone been packing that day,” Warnock said.

“The message of today’s bill signing is very clear: Our politicians, tragically, are owned by the gun lobby,” he said. “No one asked for this bill but the gun lobby, and still, we’re here. … We will remind them in November that they work for the people.”

Most churches throughout the state are focused on social issues, such as better health care and education, Warnock said.

“I don’t know of a single pastor in the state of Georgia who has been lobbying to have guns brought into their churches,” he said. “When we say pass the peace, we mean P-E-A-C-E, not the P-I-E-C-E.”

The law will also allow the carrying of firearms by any “duly authorized official of a public or private elementary or secondary school or a public or private technical school, vocational school, college, university, or other institution of post-secondary education or a local board of education.”

Deal also touted how HB60 would allow soldiers to obtain a carry license at age 18 if they’ve completed basic training and are either actively serving or have been honorably discharged.

“If they’re old enough to hold a gun in defense of our liberties, then they’re old enough to hold a gun, and they shouldn’t have to wait until they’re 21.”

Other notable provisions of the law allow hunters to use silencers and suppressors when the owner of the property where they’re hunting is aware they’re using such a device; permit gun owners who have had their licenses revoked to apply for a new license after three years; restrict access for anyone whom a court has deemed mentally incompetent or insane, or anyone involuntary committed to a mental institution; and forbid police officers who see a resident carrying a gun to ask for their permit unless they’re committing a crime.

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6 comments

  • Vasu Murti

    Gun control advocate Junling Hu writes:

    “A gun is a consumer product, sold for cash and purchased by individuals. While all other consumer products including teddy bears are subject to strict federal laws, guns are given a free pass. There are no safety regulation on guns thanks to the NRA’s lobbying efforts. Unsafe guns lead to accidents and death of adults and children at home. The ones who suffer are the gun owners.

    “A gun is also a lethal weapon. Falling into the wrong hand, it enables a criminal to kill, a gang member to fight, and a teenager to seek revenge. Guns are deadlier than tobacco, alcohol or gambling combined. While all of these are off limits to youngsters, and although a 20-year-old can be arrested for drinking a beer, he can go scot-free for buying a gun.

    “The debate over gun laws is muffled by the slogan, ‘We need less government regulation.’ It is as if government regulation is always wrong. These people ignore the fact that the government regulates every aspect of our life today. From water to air, to drugs and toys, everything touching us is regulated by law. Without the Clean Air Act, we would be breathing dirty air emissions from power plants; we would be drinking unsafe water. Without government regulation, medicines with fatal side effects would not be pulled off shelves and toys with lead poison would still be on the market. Government regulation affects our housing safety, our food quality, our driving safety (through speed limits and safety belt laws). As we live in a civilized society, the government serves as a mediator and enforcer as no individual can do.

    “The freedom of owning a gun has virtually nothing to do with abiding gun laws. Anyone can own an automobile, but they still need to register and get licenses for their cars. Everyone has the freedom of owning a house, but they still have to watch for zoning regulation and fire safety requirements.

    “Sensible gun laws govern manufacturing standard, product safety, and accessible by minors and criminals. Sensible gun laws govern the safety of our street, our school, and most importantly, the safety of our home.

    “Common sense gun laws such as closing gun show loophole, assault weapon ban, and child-lock are fundamentally needed to be sure guns do not fall into wrong hands. Yet all these basic laws are fought against by the NRA lobby. How far can we go in this extremist view of so-called ‘individual freedom’? The consequence of suffering is demonstrated by deadly shooting every day, in every corner of America. Each day, over 80 people die from gun shooting, from accidents at home, to disputes with one’s neighbor, to random shootings on the street. The deadly consequence of ‘gun freedom’ are the death of a young four-year-old–shot while playing with guns, a 15-year-old while in heat of argument, and a 19-year-old walking out of a nightclub.

    “America does not have to be a society soaked in blood, because the bloody consequences were caused by a powerful gun lobby that stripped away our basic protection from the law. Let’s work to enact sensible gun laws. We ask for sensible regulation on guns, as we ask for regulation on food and drugs. The gun issue is no longer a private matter but a public safety issue. It affects all of us. Let’s pass sensible gun laws now.”

    • manalishi

      Do you have the ability to think for yourself, or do just prefer to quote communist to communicate your extremist views?

      • Vasu Murti

        How does someone pointing out that guns should be regulated like other consumer products make that person a “communist” ?

        The logic of gun control can best be understood by considering the analogy of the automobile. A car is a potentially lethal weapon. To drive a car, one must be trained, licensed, and have that license periodically renewed. And a car is designed solely as a means of transportation. Guns, on the other hand, are deliberately designed to kill people. It is not unreasonable to demand their regulation.

        I was a senior in high school when John Lennon was assassinated. It strengthened my support for gun control.

      • manalishi

        Indeed Vasu, I will stick the the “communist” aspect as it applies to the fundamentals of our civil rights as well as our right to live. It takes a very special mentality that either should be regulated. Chapman violated Lennon’s right to live via a superiority complex and gun.. I would further contend that since Chapman violated the Sullivan act by even having a handgun in NYC, He would not care about anyone’s regulation proposals. Thus voiding another element of gun control debate.

        Background checks are most effective until we reach the unforgivable failure of those responsible for data submission. This failure is the reason Cho was granted legal access to his weapon used at VT despite stalking convictions. Straw purchasers go unprosecuted and gun thieves tend to get probation even though a gun running operation (small or large scale) is always the result.

        Furthermore, Show me 1 instance where registration of this right did NOT lead to confiscation? Comparing my right to defend myself from anyone by any means to driving a car in not only illogical, but deceptive.
        Regulating a law abiding citizens access based on unregulated lawbreakers or the irresponsible is a fraud that will always remain subject to ridicule.

    • Dace

      There are 22000 laws regulating the making, distribution, and selling of firearms. Now how are they not regulated?

    • athynz

      Aren’t you the same person that was extolling the virtues of PETA in another article despite PETA being one of the biggest killers of animals?

      Sorry but as with your pro-PETA post I’m not buying.

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