Governor signs sweeping gun legislation
by Jessica Loeding
Apr 24, 2014 | 1580 views | 0 0 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In a move met with mixed feedback, Gov. Nathan Deal on Wednesday signed House Bill 60, legislation broadening Georgia’s gun carry laws.

HB 60, which passed just before of the legislative session, opens the doors for Georgians to carry firearms in schools, churches and bars, while preventing the state from creating a database of licensed owners and eliminating the fingerprint portion of weapons carry license renewals. The law takes effect July 1.

“For decades now I have staunchly defended our Second Amendment rights as both a legislator and as governor,” Deal said in a press release. “This legislation will protect the constitutional rights of Georgians who have gone through a background check to legally obtain a Georgia Weapons Carry License. Roughly 500,000 Georgia citizens have a permit of this kind, which is approximately 5 percent of our population. License holders have passed background checks and are in good standing with the law. This law gives added protections to those who have played by the rules — and who can protect themselves and others from those who don’t play by the rules.

“Our nation’s founders put the right to bear arms on par with freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Georgians cherish their Second Amendment rights, and this law embodies those values.”

Critics, however, have blasted the bill for increasing the likelihood of violence and placing police at risk.

Bartow County Sheriff Clark Millsap disagreed.

“No. 1, I think it’s going to be an assistance to law enforcement because people will be more comfortable; those that have a carry license will carry their weapon with them,” he said. “Now, I’ve always been a proponent of the Second Amendment and I will until the day I die. Everybody needs the right to keep and bear arms.

“But my only thing is, there’s certain language in the law that I’ve read and I agree that just because we see you with a weapon doesn’t mean we can come up and say, ‘Hey, let’s see your license.’ America is still a free country, and everybody who has a Second Amendment right — now House Bill 60 has passed here in Georgia — shouldn’t be harassed by law enforcement just because you have a gun on you.”

Under HB 60, local school boards will be free to decide whether to allow teachers and other staff to bring guns on campus. Training prerequisites are outlined in the bill.

Bartow County Schools Superintendent John Harper said he had not had contact with the school board concerning the new law.

Cartersville Superintendent Howard Hinesley said the school system will not have its administrators carrying guns.

"What we would do is solidify that we have no intention of doing that. We would not favor that at all here in the Cartersville City Schools," Hinesley said. "We actually discussed that back last year when the topic was timely last year and we believe that we have a good relationship with the city of Cartersville and Cartersville police — they are the ones that are trained — and we would not entertain [administrators carrying guns] as a provision, and I believe our administrators would feel the same way."

Churches also now will be able to choose whether to allow guns inside the building. House Bill places a $100 fine on any gun owner who brings a gun against the wishes of the church, while a non-licensed owner would face misdemeanor charges. Prior to the change, carrying a gun into places of worship was illegal.

“... I like the language in it about school systems and I appreciate that they left it up to each individual school system whether they allow it or not,” Millsap said. “I also like it about churches. We see a lot of attacks here lately on churches and synagogues and things like that. If these churches allow their citizens to carry weapons in there, we might put a stop to this thing. I like the public gathering places. I like the language in the law.”

In addition, gun owners will be able to carry inside bars unless the establishment owner tells the person to leave.

Airport and government building regulations were loosened, too. Licensed gun owners may have their weapon inside airport common areas, and should they bring it to security checkpoints, they will be allowed to leave without ramifications. No one will be allowed past TSA checkpoints with a gun. Unsecured government buildings are now open to gun carriers, meaning facilities without security checkpoints or metal detectors.

Other changes include:

• Allowing lawful possession in individual dwellings of public housing, unless otherwise stipulated.

• The use of silencer when hunting on private property of the person using the silencer or suppressor; on private property where permission was granted; or on public land designated for such hunting methods was approved by the Department of Natural Resources.

• A person lawfully carrying a weapon shall not be detained solely for the purpose of questioning whether the person has a license.

• Private property owners can no longer forbid possession of weapons or long guns on their property but they may, after giving notice, exclude or eject persons from their property who possess the weapons.

While HB 60 broadens the scope of carry laws, Millsap said no law would prevent a person from having a weapon..

“If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns is the old saying, if you remember that from years ago,” he said. “If somebody wants a firearm, they’re going to get a firearm, whether it be a shotgun, a rifle, a handgun, whatever. If somebody wants one bad enough, they’re going to get it.”

HB 60 passed the House 112-58 and the Senate 37-18. With the exception of Rep. Paul Battles (R-Cartersville), who excused himself from voting, all local legislators voted yes to the measure.

For the full 29-page House Bill 60, visit www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20132014/HB/60.