THE NATIONAL Rifle Association calls it “the most comprehensive pro-gun reform legislation in recent state history.” That’s true, sad to say.
After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, gun-control advocates thought reasonable firearm restrictions might have a chance at enactment. They scored a notable victory in Colorado but mostly failed elsewhere and on the national level. Now the old political calculus seems to be back at work: The momentum is with those attempting to weaken the nation’s already-lax gun laws. Nowhere is this more true than in Georgia, where the legislature is considering the NRA’s “comprehensive” reforms, an embarrassment to anyone who claims to favor responsible gun ownership.
Georgia’s House has endorsed a series of proposals premised on the dubious notion that the more often guns are in the hands of willing shooters, the better. The state Senate is considering a few measures of varying senselessness. Depending on the version, gun owners would be allowed to bring firearms into bars and government buildings; teachers and staff would be allowed to carry guns into schools, after some training; the penalty for bringing guns onto college campuses would be reduced to a small fine; and the state would be barred from keeping a database of gun owners with carry permits, to satisfy gun-rights conspiracists. In keeping with one of the latest trends in pro-gun lawmaking, another reform on the table would extend “stand your ground” protections to felons, who can’t legally carry guns.
Stand-your-ground laws are dangerous. A Texas A&M University study last year found that states that adopted them, all within the past decade, see more homicides than do peer states. Some might not consider that a problem, particularly if many of those additional killings were based on shooters’ reasonable fear of injury. We disagree. Centuries of legal practice has demanded that those in danger retreat, if it’s safe to do so, before using deadly force. That discourages conflicts from escalating. The stand-your-ground model encourages confrontations to get out of hand, almost certainly resulting in unnecessary deaths. But instead of rolling back its stand-your-ground law, Georgia is poised to offer its protection even to people the government previously determined to be too risky to trust with legal firearms.
Georgia is not the only state with leaders who have failed the common-sense test on gun control. Politifact points out that many states already have lax gun restrictions, including several that don’t require carry permits. But that’s a mistake Georgia’s leaders should be expected to avoid. So, too, should lawmakers in Ohio thinking of introducing stand-your-ground laws in their state. That would be a perverse legacy for Sandy Hook.