Across the country, state legislators are revisiting gun legislation in the wake of yet another tragic mass shooting. But what are Georgia legislators doing, and how do their efforts stack up?
Right now, there are three separate proposals in the Georgia legislature that would allow people to carry firearms without a permit into parks, historic sites and recreational areas.
If any of these passed, it would continue the dangerous pattern of expanding gun owners’ rights at the expense of the safety and lives of Georgians.
In 2014, Gov. Nathan deal signed into law the guns everywhere bill, allowing licensed gun owners in Georgia to bring their weapons into bars, schools, churches and some government buildings.
The National Rifle Association, which has consistently pushed extremist and dangerously out-of-touch pro-gun policies, praised the legislation, calling it “the most comprehensive pro-gun reform legislation introduced in recent history.”
Just last year, Deal signed the Campus Carry bill into law, even as thousands of Georgians pushed back against the bill. This legislation allows anyone with a Georgia weapons license to carry a concealed weapon on any public college campus across the state.
The impact of this bill is far-reaching: public universities include some of Georgia’s largest schools such as the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State and Kennesaw State.
On the other hand, several current proposals would enact common-sense restrictions on gun ownership:
- Currently, a person in Georgia isn’t required to undergo any kind of training to receive a weapons carry license. Two bills would require the person to undergo some form of firearms safety training before receiving a license.
- Another measure would continue the push to ban assault weapons and some kinds of ammunition.
- Several Georgia legislators have proposed a state-level ban on bump stocks, a gun accessory used to simulate automatic fire. However, Trump has taken up the cause to federally ban these deadly accessories; though — as usual — it’s unclear if he has the ability to deliver on his promises, nor is it clear just how long his conveniently timed interest in this issue will last.
- One proposal that has gained bipartisan support would change a state law that requires the Georgia Bureau Investigation to purge records of people permanently prohibited from owning guns due to mental illness. As of now, those rolls are cleared after five years.
- Another measure would ban people convicted on domestic violence charges from owning guns and require them to give up the ones they already have. However, this bill would still leave people who are dating but not married to abusive partners vulnerable, as well as any children involved in those situations.
Meanwhile, the legislators of other states have taken more aggressive measures as they respond to the recent incidents of gun violence.
Six states — Rhode Island, Connecticut, California, Washington, Oregon and Indiana — have passed “extreme risk” laws, sometimes known as “red flag” laws, either in the legislature or by voter referendum.
These law generally allow the police to temporarily take away guns from people deemed by a judge to be dangerous, often after someone close to them raises concerns.
Four states — New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island — also recently banded together to form a gun safety coalition. They’ve pledged to share registries of people prohibited from owning firearms in individual states. These four states have among the lowest rates of gun deaths per capita in the country.
It seems Georgia continues to lag behind other states in its efforts to combat gun violence. Backwards legislation like the guns everywhere law and Campus Carry plague our state, and while other states take firmer and firmer stands against gun violence, Georgia continues to flounder.
We need to keep pushing our legislators to pass more comprehensive and aggressive gun-control laws that will protect Georgians, not the interests of organizations like the NRA.