Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp officially signed a Constitutional Carry bill into law on Tuesday, marking a major milestone in the efforts to ensure that law-abiding Americans can exercise their Second Amendment rights without first having to obtain permission from their state government. Fully half of the 50 states now have Constitutional or permitless carry laws on the books, with nearly a dozen states adopting the law in just the past two years.
Kemp held a signing ceremony for Constitutional Carry at Gable Sporting Goods in Douglasville, Georgia, where the governor says he bought his daughter her first handgun. Speaking outside the shop on Tuesday afternoon, Kemp declared that signing the bill was the right thing to do for all law-abiding Georgians.
“There is no doubt that we are in challenging times,” Kemp said, citing increasing violent crime rates across the state.
Kemp said permit-less carry was another of several steps he’s taken to tamp down crime, citing legislation he’s pushed to increase penalties on people convicted of illegal street racing and human trafficking.
Law-abiding Georgians should not have to go through the process of getting a license to carry concealed handguns, Kemp said.
“People don’t have to carry if they don’t want to,” he told reporters. “But this is a constitutional authority that people have, and they certainly shouldn’t have a piece of paper from the government to be able to legally carry a weapon.”
I second that emotion, but as you might imagine, Democrats in the state are already slamming the new law.
Opponents said Republicans are pushing legislation to remove the handgun licensing process to play to the GOP base. They said the permit process has screened out some who don’t have the legal right to carry a gun. Without it, there will be nothing to stop those people from carrying a gun and potentially committing violence.
At a press conference featuring some state Democratic lawmakers before the governor signed the bill, state Sen. Donzella James of College Park called Kemp’s support of the legislation a campaign tactic.
“Who is he serving with this bill?” James said. “Some say he’s serving himself by pandering to special interest groups and the far-right pro-Trump base.”
There was nothing stopping people who don’t have a legal right to own a gun from carrying one before Constitutional Carry took effect on Tuesday either. Concealed carry licenses don’t prevent criminals from carrying a gun, anymore than Constitutional Carry allows it. Those prohibited by law from possessing a gun due to a criminal conviction or an adjudication of mental illness are still unable to lawfully keep or bear arms in Georgia, even if Democrats want to pretend that requiring a government permission slip to do so somehow served as a magic barrier to keep prohibited persons from illegally carrying a gun.
U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath told canvassers at a Gwinnett County park who were preparing to go door-to-door to promote her campaign that Republican-backed “permitless carry” legislation will help motivate more Democrats to vote. McBath, whose teenage son Jordan Davis was murdered in 2012 in an argument over loud music, added in an interview that Republicans are embracing the expansion at their own peril.
“Don’t be fooled into believing that the American public isn’t paying attention,” she said. “They see exactly what is happening. And they know who is in favor of protecting their families and their communities. And they know who isn’t. And they’re going to see the difference at the polls.”
I know McBath has to put on a good face for the base, but if we’re talking about polls it should be noted that things are looking pretty good for Kemp at the moment. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported on Tuesday that Kemp’s campaign says the governor is close to winning more than 50% of the vote in the Republican primary, even with Donald Trump’s endorsement of Kemp challenger and former U.S. senator David Perdue, and all of the head-to-head polling for Kemp versus Stacey Abrams shows the incumbent with a sizable lead.
Of course, a lot can happen between now and November, but I don’t think that being in favor of turning people into criminals for exercising their Second Amendment rights without a permission slip from the state is going to be the winning campaign issue that McBath and Abrams think it is, especially with inflation and economic concerns topping the list of issues important to voters. Yes, Georgians are also worried about rising crime, but the best way to address that is by focusing on criminal behavior and not criminalizing the exercise of a constitutionally protected right.