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Georgia's stunning new gun law

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."

Contributing: tbt*

Don't ask about my gun, officer

Jay Bookman, a columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, lists the highlights of Georgia's gun bill:

If a police officer spots someone carrying a weapon in public, the officer will be forbidden from stopping that person to see if they have a gun permit. The change renders the current open-carry law almost impossible to enforce, and in effect gives everybody in the state an open-carry permit.

Open-carry license holders will be able to take their weapons into airports as long as they don't enter restricted areas. If they do try to take weapons through security, they will not face charges if they're caught.

License holders will be able to take weapons into bars, restaurants and churches.

Unless they're stopped by expensive security systems, such as that employed at the Capitol to protect legislators, license holders will also be able to take weapons into any state or local government building.

If someone claiming to have a permit for the gun in their possession is arrested, law enforcement will have no quick way to determine if it's true. Under HB 60, the state is forbidden to compile a list of those who have valid permits to carry.

HB 60 will allow teachers, administrators, janitors, cooks or other school employees to carry concealed weapons in schools as long as they've been given permission by the school district.

If you've been convicted of "intentionally and without legal justification point(ing) or aim(ing) a gun or pistol at another," don't worry. HB 60 means you can still get yourself a state-granted permit to carry a weapon in public, no questions asked.

It will now be legal in Georgia to hunt with weapons equipped with silencers. Why? I do not know. I do know that suppressing the sound of gunfire in the woods will make it more difficult for hikers, birdwatchers, farmers and other outdoorsmen to know that active hunters are out there.

Georgia's stunning new gun law 03/30/14 [Last modified: Sunday, March 30, 2014 7:57pm]
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