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Lawmakers Look to Expand Firearms-Carry Licenses

In Georgia, state lawmakers are considering a further expansion of the scope of current firearms-carry licenses.

Georgia House Bill 89 became law on July 1 and allows people with firearms licenses to carry guns in state parks, restaurants that serve alcohol and on public transportation vehicles. Next on the agenda could be a new law to allow firearms license holders to carry their weapons to church and on college campuses.

Senate Majority Whip Mitch Seabaugh, chairman of a Senate committee that has begun to study the gun laws in Georgia, said to Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporters that he feels that there are too many restrictions on gun permits. The committee met the day after a federal judge rejected a motion to allow people with gun-carry permits to carry guns into non-secure areas of the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.

Seabaugh’s theory is that the people who obtain licenses to carry firearms are law-abiding citizens and that criminals do not bother with obtaining permits. He says that current state firearms laws are confusing, especially regarding bans on guns near public gatherings.

A lawsuit was recently filed by GeorgiaCarry.org, a gun rights group in Georgia, and state Rep. Timothy Bearden after Atlanta city officials declared the airport a gun-free zone. Bearden sponsored Georgia House Bill 89.

Despite U.S. District Court Judge Marvin Shoob’s ruling against guns at the airport, the lawsuit is moving forward. Shoob’s ruling only addressed whether or not people with gun-carry permits could carry guns at the airport while the lawsuit is pending.

At the Senate committee meeting, GeorgiaCarry.org President Ed Stone and Bearden spoke to the senators.

The five state senators that make up the committee were all supporters of House Bill 89. In the meeting room, the front row was filled with men wearing orange and black buttons that read “Guns save lives.”

Alice Johnson of Georgians for Gun Safety criticized the meeting, saying that it lacked objectivity.

Johnson says that her group does not disagree about the need for changes in gun laws, but is concerned that only one side had the opportunity to express opinions at the meeting.

Earlier this year, Bearden sponsored another bill that would have allowed people with permits to carry guns onto college campuses. This bill never gained traction in the House, but there is talk of a renewed effort for a similar bill to allow guns to be carried in more places.

Last year, all talk of a bill to allow guns on college campuses was shushed after the Virginia Tech massacre.

Committee member Senator Chip Rogers has said that he supports allowing people with gun-carry permits to carry weapons on college campuses, but recognizes that such legislation may be unconstitutional in Georgia.

All public universities in Georgia are independently governed by the Board of Regents. This independence is built into the Georgia Constitution. Because of this, the General Assembly in Georgia may not be able to institute any changes on campuses.

While college campuses may be a hurdle that the lawmakers cannot overcome, they could still be able to pass legislation to allow guns in churches.

While it may be true that most criminals do not apply for gun-carry permits, the question begs to be asked: Why would peaceful, law-abiding citizens need guns at church?


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