Gun bill makes significant changes, needs lot more discussion
by Don McKee
February 11, 2014 06:48 PM | 1813 views | 3 3 comments | 46 46 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Don McKee
Don McKee
Significant changes in Georgia’s gun laws are proposed by House Bill 875 and deserve the attention of the citizens of this state.

HB 875 is “the most comprehensive pro-gun reform legislation introduced in recent history,” according to the Institute for Legislative Action, the lobbying arm of the National Rifle Association. Among other things cited is the proposed removal of fingerprinting for renewal of weapons carry licenses and barring the state from creating and maintaining a database of license holders.

But none of the proposals potentially could touch more people than the ones relating to weapons in churches and bars. On that point, the previous column mistakenly cited a lengthy list of weapons, ranging from guns to knives and clubs, that could be carried into churches and bars. However, that list apparently applies to weapons banned from schools as does existing law. So the bill won’t legalize guns and bowie knives or straight-edged razors in churches and bars.

But HB 875 specifically deletes “places of worship” and bars from places where “a person shall be guilty of carrying a weapon or long gun in an unauthorized location and shall be punished as for a misdemeanor when he or she carries a weapon or long gun” in those places. The unauthorized locations remaining on the list are: a government building (with exceptions), a courthouse, and a jail or prison.

The caveat is that the bill states “private property owners or persons in legal control of private property ... shall have the right to exclude or eject a person who is in possession of a weapon or long gun on their private property.” That changes the language from “the right to forbid” to “the right to exclude or eject,” presumably giving the property owner the specific legal right to remove an armed person from the premises.

The point made by a reader is that the new law will “give churches and bar owners back their private property rights, enabling them to choose whether or not to permit any type of weapons that are carried by (license) holders.” But apparently, under the bill, the burden is on the church or bar to exclude or reject armed persons. So churches will have to put up signs? Such as, “Please, no weapons allowed in our worship services.” Or maybe like the Old West: “Please, check your weapons in the foyer.” Or make announcements from the pulpit: “If you are armed, will you please go to the foyer and check your weapon?” Sort of like reminding worshipers to mute their cell phones.

Another change proposed by HB 875 strikes out the provision that anyone convicted of pointing or aiming a gun or pistol, loaded or unloaded, intentionally and without legal justification is guilty of a misdemeanor. And the bill would allow weapons licenses to be issued to active duty or honorably discharged service members at least 18 years of age.

HB 875 needs a lot more public discussion.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Phillip Evans
February 12, 2014
Mr. Mckee,

You bring up some interesting points. I'll try to address a few briefly here.

First, just what are churches and bars doing now to insure that concealed firearms are not brought into their buildings? Do they feel a need to put up signs now? Neither the current law nor HB875 requires them to put up signs. Private property rights by nature burdens the owner to make choices as they see fit.

Use signs or not use signs, or use other methods of communication - it isn't that hard. Property owners are thinking people. Do churches and bars not want the freedom to dictate what happens on their property? Would they rather give that choice to the government to relieve their "burden"?

The provision that was removed with regard to pointing a gun at another without justification was already covered by an attorney testifying at the GA Capitol. It is already a felony under current law. It's called aggravated assault.

18 year old service members are well trained and trusted with weapons by the military. Why deny them their right to defend themselves in civilian surrounding?
Lib in Cobb
February 14, 2014
Praise Jesus, pass the ammunition! What kind of gun would Jesus carry?
February 14, 2014
That's a whole lotta sense you make there, Mr. Evans.

Expect many people to reject it.
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