Georgia is expected to soon become the latest state where people can carry firearms in public without a license.
On Wednesday, House Republicans passed Senate Bill 319, permit-less carry legislation that’s a top priority for state and national gun rights groups that argue carrying guns is a constitutional right that shouldn’t require permission from the government.
Many gun rights organizations have stepped up their campaign to roll back gun restrictions, claiming that liberal politicians and progressive groups like Moms Demand Action will trample gun owners with gun regulation lobbying.
Wednesday’s 100-67 party-line vote marks the second time this month that the House advanced a bill ending licensing requirements for handguns. House Bill 1358, an identical bill, had already cleared the House and is now in the Senate chamber.
Under both bills, eligible Georgians can forgo a review in local probate courts to obtain a license and pay a fee. Gov. Brian Kemp said at a recent rally that he looked forward to signing so-called constitutional carry legislation and other gun-related bills as soon as they cleared both chambers.
Villa Rica Republican Rep. J. Collins said Wednesday that the proposed laws would protect people who forgot to renew their licenses and then find themselves in situations where they may need a gun.
“Why should you have to go to a court and get a permit to be able to carry to and to protect yourself?” said Collins, the chairman of the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.
Democrats have warned against the ramifications of allowing more people to elude a background check to get a permit. In Georgia in 2020 the checks led to the denial of 5,200 license applications, most frequently due to mental health problems or criminal records.
Federal law requires licensed gun dealers to perform a background check on prospective purchasers in order to determine if they can legally purchase a firearm. Unlicensed dealers, however, such as those selling guns online or privately, are not required to perform the same background checks.
Lawrenceville Democratic Rep. Sam Park said while gun laws are already lax in Georgia, it does not make sense to loosen them more when the state is seeking to address mental health crisis and other issues that can lead to more suicides or violent crimes.
He referenced March 16, 2021, when Robert Peterson, within hours after buying a gun went on shooting spree that killed eight people in Asian American spas in Atlanta and Cherokee County.
“It’s one thing to play politics but it’s another to play politics and harm those we’re supposed to serve and protect,” Park said.
House Minority Leader James Beverly said that weak gun regulations in Georgia emboldened Travis and Greg McMichael in 2020 on their vigilante justice to chase after and shoot to death Ahmaud Arbery, resulting in their murder and hate crimes convictions.
“You pass this law and there will be more Ahmaud Arbery killings I’m afraid, more George Zimmerman clowns emboldened,” the Macon Democrat said.
But Rep Alan Powell, a Hartwell Republican, said that this bill is for law-abiding citizens and not convicted criminals who will find a way to illegally obtain a firearm regardless of the law.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about your rights to protect yourself,” Powell said. “Unfortunately, weapons are used in the offensive capacity sometimes but these are supposed to be for defensive purposes. The law will tend to those people who violate the law.”
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