Second Amendment advocates from all over the state are gathering in Cobb County this weekend for the annual Georgia Carry convention. Georgia Carry.org is a gun rights advocacy and lobbying group that formed in 2007. The organization helped push for the so-called “guns everywhere” law that legalized firearms in bars and some churches this year.
This week, some churches in Georgia will open their doors to licensed gun owners and their weapons for the first time. A new law goes into effect July 1 that allows places of worship to “opt-in” to church carry. And it’s been a tough decision for people on both sides of the issue. Inside his office at Berean Baptist Church in Social Circle, Pastor Tom Rush has met with a church deacon about everything from the church’s community cookout, to how the new gun law will impact their small congregation. Rush says the church has about 90 members, and it averages about 70 on a Sunday morning.
Starting July 1, licensed gun owners may be able to bring their firearms onto school and college campuses in Georgia, even though the “campus carry” provision was stripped from a controversial bill that will allow guns in many churches, bars and government buildings.
A new poll from the Atlanta Journal Constitution shows Georgia voters disapprove of the state’s new gun laws, despite being more likely to own guns or believing gun ownership helps protect people. The poll, conducted by Abt SRBI of New York, surveyed 1,012 adults statewide between May 5 and May 8.
Tuesday is the last day Gov. Deal can veto or sign bills into law. And some of the most controversial bills from the legislative session are still awaiting his signature. These include a bill that would make Georgia the first state in the nation to force welfare and food stamp recipients suspected of drug abuse to submit to drug tests. There’s also a bill that would allow officials to erect a monument to the Ten Commandments at the state Capitol, which the legislature’s counsel cautions might result in a lawsuit. Another bill on his desk governs how private probation companies oversee Georgia prisoners.
Some call it the “guns everywhere” bill, but it does not quite cover everything. Legislators passed “The Safe Carry Protection Act” in the final hours of this year’s legislative session. They did not, however, include an effective date anywhere in the nearly 30 page document that cleared the House and Senate.
Georgia lawmakers have made it through one of the quickest legislative sessions in recent memory. Along the way, they passed bills limiting healthcare coverage for abortion, expanding where you can bring a gun and barring a Governor from expanding Medicaid. Lawmakers gaveled out of the 2014 session at midnight, per their custom, but not before battling over the gun bill. Republicans (and some Democrats) were split on how broad the legislation should be.
There was more controversy Friday at the Capitol after members of the House approved a bill that allow Georgians to carry guns in more places, including churches and bars. Lawmakers dropped the provision that would have allowed guns on college campuses, but as it stands Friday, the bill would decriminalize the act of bringing a gun onto university property. House Bill 875 erases the part of Georgia's code that banned guns from churches and bars. While it doesn't say gun owners can take firearms on college campuses, it changes the penalty from criminal prosecution to a fine of 100 dollars.
A provision that would have allowed students to carry weapons on public college campuses will be dropped from a revised gun bill. The provision would have opened the door for students age 21 and older with permits to carry firearms on college property. The measure has been strongly opposed by the university system and the state board of regents. So–called “campus carry” provisions have long been a sticking point in a proposed gun rights bill, and lawmakers have been working on a compromise that would give college and university presidents the option to allow guns on their campuses. But now, supporters of the provision face another stumbling block.
A key Georgia lawmaker says a provision that would have allowed students to carry weapons on public college campuses will be dropped from a revised gun bill expected to be introduced soon. Rep. John Meadows, chair of the House Rules Committee, said in an interview Thursday that the bill will instead focus on enhancing reporting of the mentally ill and empowering local school districts to arm employees if they wish.