Georgians are one step closer to being able to carry handguns in public without having to go through a background check or apply for a license to do so.
The bill still has to pass through the Senate before it can be signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp. The Georgia governor, who is in the last year of his term, previously promised his constituents he would pursue constitutional carry privileges.
Republicans used the protests that took place in Atlanta in 2020 as one of the reasons to pass this measure. They also said that the bill will allow Georgians to better protect themselves from crime and that the law, as it stands, infringes on the second amendment.
Rep. Mandi Ballinger, who is sponsoring the bill, told AP: “All of our other constitutional rights issued to us don’t require a fee to the government to exercise.” Ballinger added, “We can say what we want; we can assemble; We can worship as we please. All of these rights, none of them we have to pay for. This bill gets the government out of our way and allows us to do what we need to do in these precarious times.”
State laws currently require Georgians to get their license to carry a loaded handgun outside their own homes. The process entails submitting an application, a fee, and getting fingerprinted. Convicted felons and people who have been hospitalized for mental health problems or received treatment for drugs or alcohol in the years preceding the application aren’t eligible.
Bill 1358 does not disrupt the ruling that people must undergo federal background checks to purchase guns.
“This bill does not change who can carry or where you can carry,” said Rep. Heath Clark. “It simply says that if you meet all of the qualifications that the state has laid out to be able to carry a firearm in this state, that you can carry that firearm without having to ask permission and pay what is essentially a tax.”
“What good is owning a gun, a firearm, if you can’t carry it to protect yourself?” Clark added.
Democrats in the state believe the measure would contribute to a rise in gun deaths by encouraging more firearms and putting police officers’ lives in danger.
“It is going to mean more crime, more shootings,” said Democratic Rep. Matthew Wilson. “More guns equal more shootings. It’s not complicated. It’s very simple in fact.”
According to Stateline, an initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts, 20 states already allow concealed weapons in public without a permit.