Governor Deal signed a sweeping gun bill Wednesday, expanding the places where people can carry firearms in Georgia.
The Safe Carry Protection Act, more commonly known as the “guns everywhere” bill, will allow licensed gun owners to carry firearms in many churches, bars, and government buildings.
With a crowd of more than 100 gun rights supporters, the bill signing ceremony in Ellijay had the feel of a campaign event.
For House Speaker David Ralston, whose district includes Ellijay, it was.
“This is the apple capitol of Georgia,” said Ralston. “And yes, this is a community where we cling to religion and guns.
During the ceremony, Gov. Deal said he was putting into law a gun bill that heralds “self-defense, personal liberties, and public safety.”
““The general assembly during this past legislative session passed this piece of bi-partisan legislation by large margins that extends the protection for Georgians who have gone through a background check to legally obtain a Georgia weapons carry license,” said Deal. “House Bill 60 will protect law abiding citizens by expanding the number of places where they can carry their guns without penalty.”
The gun bill will also allow military men and women age 18 and older permission to obtain a license to carry a firearm.
” You know, if they’re old enough to hold a gun in defense of our liberties, they are old enough to hold a gun and they shouldn’t have to wait until they are 21,” said Deal.
The governor added that his stance on the bill and gun rights in the state shouldn’t come as a surprise, especially since the NRA gave him an “A” rating during his term in Congress and endorsed him when he ran for governor of Georgia.
“Our state has some of the best protections for gun owners in the United States,” said Deal. “And today we strengthen those rights guaranteed by our country’s most revered founding documents."
Dan Mills of Macon traveled to Ellijay for the ceremony.
“Georgia is actually catching up because in some states like New Hampshire, you can walk into the police station, you can walk into the legislature, carrying your gun,” said Mills.
The “guns everywhere” bill officially takes effect on July 1, but gun control advocates say they will continue their fight.
A coalition of opponents of the new gun law gathered near the state Capitol for a moment of silent protest Wednesday morning, including Piyali Cole, who heads the Georgia chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. She says the group will join houses of worship in talking to voters.
“Educating them on what irresponsible gun laws like HB 60 can do to our families and to our communities,” said Cole. “ And what ordinary citizens can do to change these laws.”
Gary Charles is pastor of the Central Presbyterian Church. He says they will oppose the state lawmakers who voted for the gun bill.
“We’re here to reject the false math that more guns create more safety. That is simply not true.”
The coalition plans to spend the next several months asking Georgians to sign a pledge to support candidates who will fight for laws to reduce gun violence.