You know that gun control is no longer an issue, either pro or con, when both sides in the gun debate try to make you believe that something big has happened on the legislative front when nothing of any real importance happened at all. I’m referring to the gun law just passed in Georgia which is awaiting Governor Nathan Deal’s expected signature, a law described by the New York Times as one of “breathtaking sweep” and by the NRA as a “historic victory for the 2nd Amendment.”
Since I really do believe in evidence-based discussion about guns, I took the trouble to read HB60, as the new law is known. If this law represents a ‘historic victory’ for the 2nd Amendment, the NRA better find someone else to defend the beloved Constitutional rights of gun owners. On the other hand, if the editors of Mother Jones really believe that this new law will result in guns being “everywhere” in Georgia, then there must be some place named Georgia other than the state where this law was just passed.
Here’s what the bill basically does: (1). It allows guns to be carried in places where liquor is served, which previously had been off-limits for guns. (2). It also allows guns to be carried in churches which, like restaurants and bars, were also off-limits for guns. (3). It allows guns to be carried in certain non-secure areas of airports, which is really funny since Atlanta’s airport was ranked #1 nationally in the number of guns confiscated in 2013. Since most guns are confiscated as people move through the security zone, the new law will probably result in the number of Atlanta confiscations going up!
The law also makes some minor changes in the application process, a few new do’s and don’ts when it comes to hunting and, what has become requisite in virtually every gun law passed since Sandy Hook, some language allegedly making it easier to pass information about mentally ill people to the feds. But if you take the time to read the new law and go back and read the current law as well, you discover that most of these “historic” changes don’t mean much at all.
First of all, the law about carrying guns into liquor-serving establishments does not prevent any bar or restaurant owner from declaring his premise off-limits to guns. All he has to do is stick a sign in the window or simply stand at the door and tell patrons that he would appreciate it if they left their guns in their cars. As for bringing guns into houses of worship, this is an ‘opt-in’ law which means that the congregation has to agree to let parishioners bring their guns into the building before anyone can have a conversation with the Almighty while sitting on their Glock.
Finally, while Georgia does not require a permit in order to purchase or own a gun, it does require a background check and prints in order to carry a weapon, and the issuance of said license can be denied if the licensing authority (who happens to be the County Probate Judge) decides that the candidate, even if he meets the legal requirements, is “not of good moral character.” You’ll have to read down to Page 16 (Section 1-7) to find this little gem and a few pages later you’ll learn that someone who is denied a carry license can appeal the decision and will then appear at a hearing – before the same judge! And if the judge prevails at the hearing? That’s it. The law makes no mention of an appeal. Well, I guess you can move to another County.
I’m not an attorney and certainly no expert in constitutional law. But it seems to me that if a Probate Judge or anyone else can determine someone’s fitness to carry a gun based on something as vague as “moral character,” then this law hardly enshrines 2nd Amendment rights. At the same time, the fact that I can pee in an airport toilet without first unhooking my holster doesn’t seem much of an indication that guns will soon be found in every nook and cranny of the Peach State. Like I said, right now there’s just not a lot of noise being made about guns.