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Monday, April 14, 2014 - 8:20pm

Capitol Confusion: When Does Georgia’s Gun Expansion Begin?

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.

That has led to some confusion about when the bill might take effect paving the way for churches to “opt-in” and allow their members to carry guns on church property. The bill will also legalize guns inside bars and some government buildings for licensed owners.

Many bills that pass through the General Assembly contain the language, “This Act shall become effective upon its approval by the Governor or upon its becoming law without such approval,” or “This Act shall become effective on July 1, 2013.” Those phrases provide clear instructions for implementation of new laws.

In all, lawmakers have four ways to provide for effective dates of legislation, according to Georgia State University political science professor, Steve Anthony.

1.They can choose a start date for the law, such as January 1, 2015.
2.They can write that the bill is effective upon the signature of the Governor.
3.They can include that the bill is effective beginning July 1, 2014.
4.They can omit the effective date, which by default, means the bill will go into effect July 1.

“I’d say about half the time, bills don’t have it spelled out because the default is the start of the fiscal year,” explained Anthony.

When GPB first started looking into when the gun law would go into effect, even some lawmakers were unsure of the process.

But Jerry Henry was not. Henry is the executive director of Georgia Carry, the gun rights advocacy group that helped lobby for the legislation. Had the bill gone to conference committee, Henry said he would have requested that lawmakers add an earlier effective date to the legislation.

“I have mixed emotions about it. I want it to go into effect as soon as possible but I also understand that law enforcement needs some time,” Henry said.

That time, he explained, would allow police and others to educate themselves about the new law and how to enforce it.

“I would really prefer to have maybe a 30 day period after the signing,” Henry added, saying that should be plenty of time for law enforcement to get up to speed.

But none of this will mean anything if Governor Nathan Deal chooses to veto the bill. Of course, that does not appear likely.

“I don’t expect him to do anything other than what everybody’s expecting him to do,” said Henry. “But I don’t know.”

The Governor has 40 days from the end of the legislative session to take action, or the bill will automatically become law. A spokesperson for the Governor would not comment on if or when Deal plans to sign the legislation.

Either way “The Safe Carry Protection Act,” it will go into effect July 1, 2014.