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Thursday, December 22, 2011 - 12:49pm

Bill Would Remove Gun Background Check

Gun owners would not submit fingerprints or go through background checks under a proposed bill. But critics say the measure would jeopardize public safety.

Georgians wanting to carry a concealed weapon have to pay a permit fee, undergo a background check and submit to fingerprinting.

Rep. Jason Spencer, the bill’s sponsor, would like to remove those restrictions.

The Woodbine Republican says the state background check may turn up useful information. But he says it’s an impediment to the right to carry a gun.

“We want to defend freedom and liberty and to protect law-abiding citizens’ ability to protect themselves," he said in an interview. "My purpose isn’t to allow government to have a useful tool. My purpose is to defend the constitutional rights of law-abiding, tax-paying citizens of this state.”

An FBI background check would still take place at the point of purchase.

But advocates for stricter gun laws say it doesn’t flag all potential problems. They say state checks, for example, often identify applicants who are mentally ill and hence ineligible to carry a gun.

Spencer says four states -- Vermont, Wyoming, Arizona and Alaska – have already removed these restrictions.

But Josh Horowitz with The Coalition To Stop Gun Violence says there’s a correlation between gun deaths and states with looser conceal-carry laws.

“Of those [state], three of the four are in the top gun death states in the U.S.," he said in an interview. "Alaska, which has had one of the most liberal conceal carry laws, leads the nation in gun deaths. Arizona and Wyoming are not far behind.”

Rep. Spencer filed the bill in advance of the next state legislative session, which begins on Jan. 9.