Activist state

Georgia House: no longer need a license for firearms in public

On Friday, Republicans pushed a bill through the Georgia House that would abolish the requirement for a background check and a license to carry a handgun in public — moving one step closer to “constitutional scope.” that Gov. Brian Kemp and other Republicans have promised to deliver in an election year.

House Bill 1358 passed 94-57, moving to the Senate for further debate. The Senate passed a similar measure last month.

Republicans said the measure was necessary to make it easier for people to protect themselves from crime, also citing civil unrest seen at a few 2020 protests against racial injustice in Atlanta. They also argued that it violates Second Amendment gun rights for people who must apply for a license and pay a fee, usually around $75, to obtain a concealed-carry license.

“All of our other constitutional rights granted to us do not require a fee for the government to exercise,” said Rep. Mandi Ballinger, the township Republican sponsoring the bill. “We can say whatever we want; we can assemble; We can worship as we see fit. All of these rights, none of them we have to pay for. This bill gets the government out of our way and allows us to do what we need to do in these precarious times. »

Democrats said the measure would fuel gun deaths by encouraging more guns, increase crime and put the lives of police officers at risk.

“It’s going to mean more crime, more shootings,” said Rep. Matthew Wilson, a Democrat from Brookhaven. “More guns equals more shootings. It’s not complicated. It’s very simple actually.

More than 20 other states allow the concealment of weapons in public without a permit, according to Stateline, an initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Georgia currently requires people to obtain a license to carry a loaded handgun outside their home, business, or car, although people can carry rifles and shotguns in many places. without a license and carrying unloaded weapons in holsters.

To obtain a weapons license, residents must submit an application and fee and undergo fingerprinting in addition to a background check. Convicted felons and people who have been hospitalized for mental health issues or who have received treatment for drug or alcohol addiction in the years prior to applying are not eligible.

Democrats said the process leads to thousands of people with criminal records or mental illnesses being denied licenses in Georgia each year.

“You want to relax the little check we have and why, why?” asked Rep. Shea Roberts, a Democrat from Atlanta. “Because it’s inconvenient for law-abiding citizens to fill out a form?” »

Republicans, however, said people should still pass a federal background check to buy a gun. The permits would still exist, as they allow people to carry guns outside of Georgia under interstate agreements.

“This bill does not change who can transport or where you can transport,” said Rep. Heath Clark, Republican of Warner Robins. “It just says that if you meet all of the conditions that the state has set out to be able to carry a firearm in that state, that you can carry that firearm without having to ask permission and pay what is essentially a tax.

Some said delays in issuing licenses as courthouses closed during the COVID-19 pandemic caused them to change their minds and support the measure.”

“What good is owning a gun, a gun, if you can’t carry it to protect yourself?” said Clark.

When he ran for governor in 2018, Kemp promised to support the constitutional postponement, but little progress was made on the issue until this year. Kemp is pushing harder this year to scrap permit requirements, facing a primary challenge from Republicans, including former U.S. Senator David Perdue. Kemp says Georgia residents should have their constitutional rights protected and be able to protect themselves and their families from a spike in violent crime.

“We now have a governor who has said he will support unlicensed portering,” said Rep. Alan Powell, a Republican from Hartwell, who said he has long supported the move. “That’s the difference, ladies and gentlemen.”

But Democrats, warning opinion polls citing the opposition, have vowed to make Republicans pay for the move.

“We have all witnessed the pressures from the majority party, the pressure to meet the needs of far-right activists who are so out of touch with reality that they cannot be reasoned with,” Wilson said. “Almost every session, you give them a nibble of whatever they want. But it’s so much more than just a nibble.

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Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.