What Georgia’s expansive new pro-gun law does


Surrounded by bill supporters, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signs House Bill 60 into law on Wednesday. (Brant Sanderlin/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) signed into law Wednesday a pro-gun package that groups on both sides of the gun control debate describe as exceptional.

The National Rifle Association calls it “the most comprehensive pro-gun bill in state history.” Americans for Responsible Solutions, the gun control group founded by shooting victim and former congresswoman Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), calls it “the most extreme gun bill in America.”

In signing the package, Deal described it a little differently: The law, which goes into effect this July, protects the basic constitutional rights of the roughly 5 percent of Georgia residents who hold licenses to carry weapons, he said.

“This law gives added protections to those who have played by the rules – and who can protect themselves and others from those who don’t play by the rules,” he said in a statement announcing the bill’s signingThe bill passed both the House and Senate with sizable leads in mid-March. In each chamber, about twice as many legislators voted for the bill than against it.

Here’s (some of) what it does, according to an end-of-session analysis by the nonpartisan state Senate Research Office, obtained by the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

  • First, broadly speaking, the new law allows people with a license to carry a gun in the following locations:
    • Bars and associated parking facilities, though gunholders can be forced to leave upon notice by the property owner.
    • Government buildings (except where entry is typically screened during business hours by security personnel)
    • Places of worship (only with express approval)
    • School safety zones, school functions or on school-provided transportation (again, only with approval from the appropriate school official).
  • The bill expands the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law, a version of which rose to prominence in the legal debate over the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida. Before, you couldn’t invoke that defense — which provides immunity from prosecution — if you used a banned firearm in self-defense. Now, you can: “this bill provides that a person will be immune from prosecution in using deadly force in self-defense or defense of others or property even if the person utilizes a weapon in violation of [the Georgia Firearms and Weapons Act],” the report finds.
  • Firearms dealers no longer need to maintain records of sales and purchases for state purposes. (Federal record-keeping  requirements still apply, where applicable.)
  • The governor loses his authority to suspend or limit the carrying or sale of guns.
  • Banning or restricting lawful firearm possession in public housing is now illegal.
  • As the AJC reported, the new law expands the pre-emption of local laws. Before, cities could not regulate “gun shows and dealers through zoning or by ordinance,” AJC’s Kristina Torres reported. Now, that applies to all weapons.
    • Lamar Norton, head of the Georgia Municipal Association, said the package “would impose unnecessary costs on Georgia’s cities and opens them and other local governments up to frivolous litigation.”
  • The fingerprinting requirement for license renewals is now removed.
  • No one is allowed to maintain a database of information on license holders that spans multiple jurisdictions.

(CORRECTION: This post has been updated to reflect the following: the fingerprinting requirement was only removed for license renewals, not all licenses; guns are explicitly allowed, with written authorization from the appropriate official, at certain school-related locations, not on the premises.)

Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.

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Niraj Chokshi · April 23, 2014

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