GOV. NATHAN DEAL supported it. His opponent, Jason Carter—grandson of one of the most liberal presidents in U.S. history—also supported it.
The votes on it have never really been close.
If there was ever a law approaching total bipartisan comity in Georgia, it’s the so-called “Safe Carry Protection Act”—known to critics as the “Guns Everywhere” bill—making national news and in some minds threatening to make Georgia a world poster child for dangerously retrograde ideas.
The bill, to become law July 1, definitely expands the universe of gun-carrying for those who take the time and trouble to go the courthouse, stand in line, pay the fees (about $100 total) and get fingerprinted for a Georgia Weapons Carry License.
It’s important to note the new law only applies to those with that license. Gun owners who don’t follow any laws are still “free” to continue shooting anyone they want, anytime they want. Same as it ever was.
With that license, open or concealed carry is legal in bars (unless the owner posts an objection, a reversal of the previous default condition), churches (ditto), in airports outside of screening areas, and in government facilities without security checkpoints.
There is also a provision by which local school boards can opt to have staff members carry firearms within school buildings. (Locally, the Savannah/Chatham Board of Education Police already carry sidearms.)
Another provision which many find troublesome includes redefining a successful Stand Your Ground defense to include felons otherwise prohibited from having a gun.
In one of the least-talked about but most radical new measures, police who see you packing heat are now specifically prohibited from asking you to show your valid Weapons Carry License unless they have articulable probable cause to do so.
So what part of everyday life for you is going to change due to the new gun law? Probably not much in literal terms.
Various forms of open/concealed carry have been legal in Georgia for decades. You’ve probably sat or stood next to someone legally carrying a gun many times in the past and not realized it.
However, the added paranoia the new law will engender—does the person on the barstool or in the pew next to me have a gun?—will have a long-term psychological impact on a stress-filled society already fractured along so many fault lines.
A recent example comes from a Little League game in Cumming, Ga.—months before the new law even takes effect.
A man with a holstered pistol was just walking around aimlessly in the parking lot. Deputies responding to 911 calls checked his valid license and then could do nothing.
(Remember: Under the new law they’re barred from even asking to see his license unless they think he’s committing a crime.)
The baseball game? Cancelled. Panicking parents herded the kids into a dugout, literally shielding them with their bodies.
(After this column went to press, this happened in Kennesaw, Ga., ironically the first town in America to actually require gun ownership, a law that has never actually been enforced.)
This has always been my main complaint about permissive gun laws: Seeing a handgun out of context—not on a cop or soldier, for example—changes everything.
Your eyes can’t help but be drawn to it.
You can’t help but wonder what that person might do next with that gun.
Gun rights supporters know full well the power of a visible gun. In their view, that power is a deterrent to crime. To others, it’s a needless gesture of intimidation.
The Safe Carry Protection/Guns Everywhere law is really about symbolism. It’s getting attention not so much for its details but for the particular sensitivity of the communal gathering places it deals with:
Churches, schools, bars, airports, government buildings.
The very heart of society.
Make no mistake: Whether you support or oppose the new law, it’s an attempt to normalize what was previously not normal.
That’s why it’s so disturbing to so many people, and so inspiring to others.