Georgia GOP looking hard at gun rights bills

AP Photo/Morgan Lee

As a Georgia native and resident, I am interested in what my state does regarding gun rights.

I mean, obviously. What lawmakers pass or don’t pass impacts my daily life. It would be ridiculous to ignore those in favor of whatever insanity California is going to try and pass today. While that’s part of my job, what Georgia does is part of my life.

So, needless to say, I’m thrilled to see the GOP here looking at some serious expansion of gun rights.

The General Assembly declined to pass new firearm legislation last session, though it did come close with a gun rights bill written by Cherokee Republican Rep. Mandi Ballinger. Among that bill’s provisions are an expansion of firearm license reciprocity with other states and a restriction of the powers of Georgia governors to curtail gun rights under states of emergency.

Ballinger’s bill passed both chambers, but the Senate version was amended in committee, which meant the House would have needed to vote on the bill again. That never happened, and House Speaker David Ralston later told reporters a deadly shooting spree at Asian-American-owned spas in Cherokee County and Atlanta shortly before the end of the session factored into that decision.

The shooting sparked grief and anger among lawmakers.

“Frankly, I thought we needed to be very, very sensitive to any gun legislation,” the Blue Ridge Republican said following the close of the 2021 session. “You know, we’re less than two weeks out from two major mass killings, and so that heightens my level of sensitivity to that.”

But the bill could get a second chance when the House and Senate gavel into session in January, and lawmakers could also set their sights higher, said Rep. Philip Singleton, a Sharpsburg Republican and a founding member of the Georgia Freedom Caucus.

“Mandi’s bill, in my opinion, could have been stronger; obviously, I would have taken it over nothing,” he said. “We have a Second Amendment Protection Act bill, SAPA, which has passed in seven other states, that I’d like to get passed in Georgia, and then there’s constitutional carry, two different versions of that floating around.

“I think you’re definitely going to see some gun legislation this year. It’s too early to tell with the session not started how that’s going to manifest, how that’s going to look, but that is something the Freedom Caucus and our network of allies – we have allies that aren’t necessarily part of the caucus – will work to get passed.”

Now, it should be noted that I was…less than understanding of Ralston’s position.

However, him shepherding constitutional carry through the House would be one way I’d be willing to let bygones be bygones. Spearheading constitutional carry and making sure it passes the House, then working with his colleagues in the Senate to get them to pass it as well, would probably erase all my hard feelings.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d be thrilled with a version of SAPA here as well, but I wouldn’t term that as nearly the same priority, especially since it looks like President Biden isn’t going to be able to push through gun control in his lifetime.

As such, it’s just not as much of a priority for me and probably a lot of other gun rights supporters here in the state.

Not that I’ll complain about getting it if that’s what happens.

One thing I won’t let slide, though, is this idea that we need to trip over ourselves to be “sensitive” after a mass shooting. Yes, they’re horrible, but gun control supporters aren’t interested in being sensitive at a time like that, so why should we? Especially when proposed legislation has absolutely no bearing on the shooting.

Let’s hope that lesson is being learned.

More than that, though, let’s hope we never have to find out because I just don’t trust certain parties in Atlanta not to cave all over again.