ELLIJAY, Ga. — Georgia took a big step Wednesday toward expanding where licensed gun carriers can take their weapons, as the governor signed a bill allowing them in bars without restriction and in some churches, schools and government buildings under certain circumstances.
Following mass shootings in recent years, some states have pursued stronger limits on guns while others like Georgia have taken the opposite path, with advocates arguing that people should be allowed to carry weapons as an issue of public safety.
Republicans control large majorities in the Georgia General Assembly, and the bill passed overwhelmingly despite objections from some religious leaders and local government officials. One group outside Georgia criticized it as the "guns everywhere" bill.
For the signing by Gov. Nathan Deal and a barbecue, a few hundred gun rights supporters gathered at an outdoor pavilion along a river in north Georgia in the town of Ellijay. Many in the audience sported "Stop Gun Control" buttons and several had weapons holstered at their side. House Speaker David Ralston offered a thinly veiled critique of those who might oppose the bill while describing the people of his district.
"This is the apple capital of Georgia. And, yes, it's a community where we cling to our religion and our guns," Ralston said, drawing big applause in referencing a past comment made by President Barack Obama.