Credit: Stephen Fowler / GPB News
Gov. Brian Kemp backs permit-free gun carry legislation in election-year session
Gov. Brian Kemp announced support for legislation that could eliminate the need for a weapons carry license in Georgia. GPB's Stephen Fowler has more.
Gov. Brian Kemp announced Wednesday he supports the GOP-led legislature passing a so-called "constitutional carry" bill this legislative session that would likely allow eligible Georgians to open or concealed carry a handgun without a permit.
The governor's press conference comes as he faces multiple primary challenges from his right flank, led by Donald Trump-endorsed former Sen. David Perdue and in an election year where the Georgia General Assembly is poised to prioritize several red-meat conservative base issues.
Speaking at Adventure Outdoors, the self-proclaimed "world's largest gun store" in Smyrna, Kemp, members of the National Rifle Association and state lawmakers gathered to tout support for a prominent platform of staunch conservatives ahead of a brutal primary election cycle for governor.
"We shouldn't have to claw back a civil right; we shouldn't have to fight for a God-given right to defend ourselves," NRA board member Willes Lee said. "And as long as there are anti-American, anti-gun zealots who try to take our civil rights, NRA members will stay in the fight this year, next year and into the future."
More than 20 states currently have "constitutional carry" laws that no longer require residents to have a permit in order to carry concealed weapons, though the exact language and specifics differ from state to state.
Georgia's current regulations require a weapons carry license to conceal carry, and is a "shall-issue" permitting state. That requires residents to apply for a permit, pay a fee, be fingerprinted and undergo a background check before receiving the weapons carry license.
Kemp did not specify what exact changes would be made to state law, but said in his remarks that his support for permitless carry has been a top priority since running for governor in 2018.
"While this position is greatly has recently become popular for others as we enter the campaign season, my position has remained the same," Kemp said. "I believe the United States Constitution grants the citizens of our state the right to carry a firearm without state government approval. For law-abiding Georgians, their carry permit is a founding document of our nation, and I look forward to working with the members of the House in the Senate... to get constitutional carry across the finish line this legislative session."
Several bills are active in the legislature dealing with loosening restrictions on firearms, including House and Senate versions of the "Georgia Constitutional Carry Act" that would eliminate the need for a weapons carry license and expand places that Georgians can legally carry guns.