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Georgia's "Guns Everywhere Law": What is behind all the controversy?

On March 20, 2014, the Georgia legislature passed a bill that if signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal, will become part of the state's Safe Carry Protection Act. The proposed law expands the places where guns could be legally carried, so much so in some people's view that the bill has become known as the "Guns Everywhere Law." But what does the proposed law really say, and how much would it really change about firearms in Georgia?

Currently, Georgia does not require a permit to purchase a firearm; only a background check and fingerprints are mandatory. A license is required to carry a gun, however, and a license can be denied if the licensing authority decides that an applicant is "not of good moral character." The proposed law makes some minor changes to the background check in order to facilitate access to mental health information, something many states have incorporated into their gun laws in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting.

The big change--and the one causing all the controversy--is the expansion of areas where guns will be allowed. If Governor Deal signs the law, and there is every indication he will, guns would be allowed in:

  • Establishments that sell liquor, such as bars and restaurants
  • Places of worship
  • Certain non-secure areas of airports
  • K-12 schools by appointment of certain staff members to carry them

Note: guns are still prohibited on college campuses

On first consideration, this list might seem like "everywhere." However, there are two important caveats in the proposed law that make the change not quite as expansive as the controversy makes it seem. The first is that bars, restaurants, and any establishment can "opt out" of allowing guns on their property simply by placing a sign on their property. The second is similar but is even more protective of the status quo: places of worship must affirmatively "opt-in" for worshippers to be able to bring firearms onto the property. Thus whether guns actually go "everywhere" will largely be up to the individual business or religious organization.

The proposed law would also change some aspects of Georgia's self-defense provision. If someone uses a firearm in self-defense, there will be no penalty even if the person using the firearm:

  • Was in an unauthorized location
  • Was under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Did not have a license for the firearm

While the NRA and its proponents are claiming victory, and gun control advocates are crying foul, the real story here is that there is not much of a story. Both sides of this controversial topic have strong feelings, but the reality is that the proposed bill won't really do anything all that new.

Categories: News, Firearms
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