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 signing. The 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.
- 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.)