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Constitutional carry gun bill clears first hurdle in Georgia

Legislation cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee along party lines.

Published: February 2, 2022 3:34pm

Updated: February 2, 2022 11:40pm

(The Center Square) -

A bill to allow Georgians to carry handguns without obtaining a license or permit has received initial approval from the Senate.

Senate Bill 319 – the Georgia Constitutional Carry Act of 2021 – cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee along party lines. Twenty-two states already give residents the liberty.

Sen. Jason Anavitarte, R-Dallas, who presented the bill Tuesday to the committee, said states that have removed the restriction experienced a drop in crime. Critics fear it would put guns in the wrong hands.

Georgians can purchase a firearm without a license, but a license is required to carry a weapon openly in Georgia. When concealed, a license is not required to carry a handgun in a person's home, vehicle, business, while fishing or hunting or unloaded in a case. However, courthouses, schools and other "school safety zones" are not included. The bill would not lift restrictions on long guns.

Under the measure, Georgians who want a firearm permit still can apply for one.

The committee hearing drew advocates for and against the bill. While proponents said the measure would increase freedom and safety, opponents said it would put more lives at risk.

Domestic violence advocates said making firearms more accessible will increase domestic violence fatalities. Other critics said lawmakers should consider other ways to reduce violence and increase safety, such as increasing funding for education and other resources.

The bill only applies to "lawful weapons carriers," which Anavitarte said rules out people with criminal records, including those convicted of domestic violence, from getting more access to guns. He said the current permit requirement does not deter criminals from carrying guns.

"They will do it regardless," Anavitarte said. "Permitless carry gives criminals a reason to fear that any potential victim could be armed and thus desensitizes criminals from conduct."

Committee member Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, who is an attorney, said criminal history is the No. 1 reason for permit denials in Georgia. She said 5,000 permits were denied last year. Anavitarte argued potential gun buyers still are subject to background checks from gun retailers.

Parent and other critics of the bill also pointed to random shootings or stray-bullet killings in Georgia.

Proponents of the bill argued there has been a spike in requests for firearms permit, showing Georgians "don't feel safe."

The bill must be approved in the full Senate and House before it is sent to Gov. Brian Kemp. Kemp said he intends to sign the measure he believes will give Georgians "the ability to protect themselves and their families."

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