Pro- and anti-gun forces do not agree on much, but they do agree on the breathtaking sweep of the Georgia legislation allowing guns in bars, schools, restaurants, churches and airports that is now awaiting the signature of Gov. Nathan Deal.
Americans for Responsible Solutions, founded by Gabrielle Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who was critically wounded in a mass shooting in 2011, calls it "the most extreme gun bill in America" and the "guns everywhere" legislation. The National Rifle Association calls it "the most comprehensive pro-gun" bill in recent state history, and described the vote at the Capitol 11 days ago as "a historic victory for the Second Amendment."
The bill "in effect gives everybody in the state — criminal or upstanding citizen, sane or insane — an open-carry permit,'' wrote Jay Bookman, a columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in a rundown on the legislation's provisions (see accompanying story).
More than a year after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut elicited a burst of gun-control legislation, the Georgia bill shows just how far the counterreaction has spread as lawmakers, mainly in Republican-controlled states in the South and West, pass laws allowing weapons in all corners of society while strengthening so-called Stand Your Ground laws.
Critics say the victories may come at a price as pro-gun legislation pushes up against the limits of public opinion.
"I do think they've overreached," said Laura Cutilletta, senior staff attorney at the San Francisco-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The Georgia bill, she said, is "so extreme and people do have such a strong reaction to it. I don't think over all it's a victory for them."
The bill was opposed not only by gun-control groups, but also by the state's police chiefs association and restaurant association, Episcopal and Catholic churches, and the federal Transportation Security Administration. A majority of Georgians also opposed it, according to several polls.
Deal, a Republican, is expected to sign the bill. He is up for re-election this year, but there is no sign of a political backlash against him or anyone who voted for the legislation.
"I don't think it will backfire," said Jerry Henry, director of Georgia Carry, one of the local groups that promoted the bill. "You can bet those politicians who voted for it knew what their constituents wanted."