Georgia Senate gives thumbs up to Constitutional Carry

(AP Photo/John Locher, File)

Of all the states that have seen Constitutional Carry bills introduced this year, I’d give Georgia the best chance to see that legislation enacted into law. When former U.S. Senator David Perdue decided to challenge Kemp for the Republican gubernatorial nomination this year, he made Constitutional Carry an issue, and Kemp’s response was to try to take that issue off the table by passing and signing permitless carry before the Republican primary in May.

Having the vocal backing of a governor can go a long way, and so far things seem to be progressing quite well for Constitutional Carry in Georgia, with the state Senate signing off on the bill in a lopsided vote on Monday afternoon.

Democrats said the measure would fuel gun deaths and proposed an amendment that would expand background checks, but the GOP-controlled Senate defeated it. Senate Bill 319 passed 34-22 along party lines and now goes to the state House.

Monday’s vote was preceded by a lengthy debate that included familiar arguments about gun rights and safety. Opponents and supporters also cited recent violence, including the invasion of Ukraine.

Sen. Jason Anavitarte of Dallas, a Republican sponsor of the so-called constitutional carry legislation, said criminals were unlikely to go through the state’s permit process. Republicans have argued the bill would remove an unnecessary burden on people seeking to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

“Today, we empower good people, law-abiding people,” Anavitarte said.

If you can’t legally possess a gun in Georgia today, you won’t be able to legally carry one if Constitutional Carry becomes the law of the land. The bill doesn’t empower violent felons or any other prohibited person to bear arms, but Democrats have done their best to make it seem like the legislation would do just that.

Democratic Sen. Elena Parent of Atlanta said the bill advanced the agenda of “extremist gun groups” and was among a slew of measures on “wedge issues” that were being pushed this year. It would not protect crime victims, she said, citing the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and last year’s slayings at three Atlanta-area massage businesses.

No one is suggesting that the passage of Constitutional Carry would prevent any and all violent crimes. That’s not the point of the legislation, which makes Parent’s argument a really dumb one. I mean, shall issue concealed carry didn’t prevent those crimes either, but I haven’t sen Parent introduce legislation repealing the right to bear arms in the state of Georgia, which would be the logical conclusion of her completely illogical argument.

The House version of permitless carry also made progress on Monday, winning approval of a House subcommittee that also advanced another piece of pro-2A legislation.

The subcommittee also passed House Bill 1378, which would remove Georgia’s legal prohibition against carrying guns in churches. Rep. Rick Jasperse, a Republican from Jasper, said churches would be treated like other private property owners, meaning they would have to post signs to keep people from carrying in guns and ask people who had guns to leave. Violators could be charged with trespassing.

Basically, under current Georgia law churches and other houses of worship have to opt-in to allow concealed carry on their property. HB 1378 would change that by requiring religious establishments to opt-out instead by posting signs prohibiting the lawful carrying of firearms on the property.

That’s a pretty minor change, all things considered, especially when compared to the opportunity to enshrine Constitutional Carry into law, but it would still be an improvement. Right now, I’d say the pathway for both bills looks pretty clear and we’re on track to see Constitutional Carry legislation become a permitless carry law before the GOP primary fight concludes on May 24th.