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Georgia's got a gun (rights): Gov. Nathan Deal (R) signs pro-gun act into law

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Georgia Governor Nathan Deal (R) made gun rights history today when he signed the “Safe Carry Protection Act” legislation into law. Gov. Deal is an Army veteran who made captain during his time in the service. Although Gov. Deal started his political career as a Democrat, he changed to Republican in 1995, immediately making his mark by voting yea on all four articles of impeachment against then-President Bill Clinton. Gov. Deal also voted yea for the Recognition of the Importance of Christmas and Christianity (House Resolution 847) in 1997. He has a decades-long history of voting to support gun rights and the military, and today’s signing angered gun control advocates across the nation.

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“A free people out to be armed.” (George Washington)

The “Safe Carry Protection Act” expands legal carry across Georgia for those with carry permits, making Georgia the ninth state to broaden its Second Amendment rights this year. The legislation will go into effect July 1, 2014, and gun-rights proponents couldn’t be happier. “People who follow the rules can protect themselves and their families from people who don’t follow the rules,” Deal was quoted as saying in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The Second Amendment should never be an afterthought. It should reside in the forefront of our minds.”

Under the new law, Georgians and visitors from 28 other states – including Washington state - with carry permits will now be able to carry in bars, a right that used to be allowed only at the discretion of each establishment’s owner (bars will be allowed to refuse firearms as long as they notify owners, however). And that discretion which was once the purview of bar owners will now become the right of churches and schools. That’s right, in Georgia, religious leaders will now be allowed to decide whether to allow firearms in their places of worship. And school districts will also be granted the right to allow qualified individuals with carry permits to tote their side-arms onto school property. According to the bill summary, a written letter from the school must be given to the person being allowed to carry. This includes all schools, whether elementary, high school, technical or community colleges, or accredited universities. Legal carry will also be permitted in government buildings that do not have security checkpoints – think libraries, city halls, rec centers and fire stations, among others.

Another noteworthy change coming to the Peach State is the removal of the fingerprint requirements for renewing carry licenses. The law is also meant to prohibit the state itself from creating or maintaining a database of licensed firearms carriers. The current state-required license for gun dealers will also be repealed, as will the state requirement for firearms dealers to maintain records of firearms sales and purchases.

And in a move sure to anger many a TSA official, those with a legal carry permit who visit the airport cannot be prosecuted for carrying in non-secure areas. Permit holders who approach a restricted or secure area and are informed that they are about to enter a secure area with a weapon cannot be prosecuted, and their weapons cannot be taken away, so long as they immediately leave the area. In 2013, TSA confiscated 1,828 guns, which was a twenty percent increase over the previous year. But after July 1, 2014, in Georgia? TSA’s going to be having a dirt-low year for legal confiscation numbers.

The law also acknowledges, at long last, that if our military men and women are old enough to put their lives on the line for this country, they’re old enough to own a gun. Although the legal age for obtaining a weapons-carry permit remains at 21 years of age for the general population of Georgia, it will be lowered to 18 years of age for those in the military. All they will need to do is provide proof of having finished basic training and proof of either active service or an honorable discharge. That is absolutely a victory.

Confiscation of firearms will also be prohibited during emergencies, a brilliant move by Gov. Deal considering what happened after Hurricane Katrina. And police officers will no longer be allowed to detain someone “solely for the purpose of investigating whether such person has a license” (“Safe Carry Protection Act”, Physical Possession of Weapons Carry License). The act also contains provisions to codes regarding hunting with suppressors, carrying firearms in motorized vehicles, and new self-defense immunities, among others. All in all, a neat piece of legislative work.

“The Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.” (George Mason)

Of course, the act has its detractors. Opponents are calling it the “guns everywhere bill,” which is a rather blatant misnomer. Unsurprisingly, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), founder of gun control organization Americans for Responsible Solutions, is leading the gun control pack, labeling the act “the most extreme gun bill in America.” Kathryn Grant, the Georgia state director of the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus, told media that “to say we are disappointed is an understatement.” The loudest opponents on news releases and articles online are those claiming the bill will undoubtedly lead to “mass bloodshed” and “crazed” outbreaks of violence.

The reality is that a responsible gun owner is a responsible gun owner, and Second Amendment rights should not be infringed. It has been proven time and again that “gun-free zone” tends to mean “shoot here,” a sad but true state of affairs. Perhaps if criminals did not know whether or not there were armed staff on school grounds, they wouldn’t be so likely to go in guns blazing. And perhaps if criminals knew there absolutely were qualified, armed individuals on the grounds, they would simply never go in at all.

Gov. Deal received almost twice as many letters, emails and phone calls asking him to pass the act as he did requesting he veto it, and after three failed attempts, it’s finally law. Deal called April 23, 2014, the day of the signing, a "great day to reaffirm our liberties" and the NRA lauded the act as "the most comprehensive pro-gun bill in state history." Proponents scoff the idea that people will flock to Georgia in droves in order to enjoy its expanded gun rights, but according to anti-gun comments online, the new laws just might keep the gun control crowd out. And that might just be what we call a win-win.

“The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” (Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, December 15, 1791)

Author’s note: To view copies of the act’s summary, go to: http://media.cmgdigital.com/shared/news/documents/2014/04/11/gun_bill_re.... To see the revisions made to the old bill, go to: http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/display/20132014/HB/512. And to take a look at the United States conceal carry permit state reciprocity map, go to: http://www.usacarry.com/concealed_carry_permit_reciprocity_maps.html.

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