Georgia legislators would be allowed to carry firearms into the state capitol and other government buildings if a new bill becomes law. But they would be prohibited from taking their guns into the House or Senate chambers.
HB 394 was introduced last week by Rep. Calvin Hill (R-Canton) who told the Cherokee Tribune that a legislator “is going into and out of government buildings on a regular basis year-round.” More to the point, he said, “We get a lot of threats at any given time. We’re at a higher level of risk, you might say, then if we had another job.”
The bill would add legislators to a long list of people exempted from the state law banning firearms in government buildings. In addition to current peace officers and related law enforcement officials, the existing list includes trial judges, municipal judges and appellate judges, retired state and appellate judges, coroners, clerks of court, retired police chiefs, police officers, sheriffs and deputy sheriffs.
Under Hill’s proposal, legislators would be required to have a valid Georgia weapons license to qualify for the exemption and the right to carry firearms in government buildings. Hill said the bill arose from discussions with other legislators. He said he has received support for the bill but “there are people out there misrepresenting that bill that we’re trying to get outside the law” and reiterated, “We’re just trying to be included in the same exemptions other people in government jobs have.”
Although Hill didn’t name any opponents, a group opposed to HB 394 is Georgia Gun Owners, Inc. which says that Hill and cosponsors Reps. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) and Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville) want “to give themselves special firearms carrying privileges.” Powell is chairman of the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Bill to which the bill was sent; and Taylor is vice chairman.
On its Facebook page, GGO calls for people to email the three legislators “and let them know you oppose their special privileges bill.” The group’s executive director, Patrick Parsons, said, “Gun owners in Georgia should all be treated the same, regardless of their political access at the Capitol in Atlanta,” according to WSB-TV.
No doubt, Rep. Hill and his colleagues have legitimate concerns about threats they receive. Certainly they should take seriously any threats. Still, HB 394 needs a thorough airing since gun-toting members would be allowed to carry their weapons anywhere in the Capitol except House or Senate chambers. They could and presumably would be armed in committee meetings and elsewhere under the Gold Dome and in other state, city and county buildings. A sobering thought.
And here’s another thing: If legislators carrying guns cannot take them into the House or Senate chambers, will they leave the weapons in their offices? Will they be patted down before entering the chambers? And will they have to set up a table outside the chambers for gun-toting members to check their weapons while they are on the floor?
Is this bill a good idea?