By now, you all probably know that Governor Nathan “Y’all Try Hard not to Make a ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ Reference, Y’Hear?” Deal recently signed into legislation the smoke-and-mirrors-named Safe Carry Protection Act, also referred to as the “guns everywhere law” because it allows guns, well, pretty much everywhere: churches, bars, schools, etc. College campuses are, for some reason, exempt — maybe because they’re essentially a school combined with a bar, and though Deal would love to see the Peach State segue into even more of a caricature than it already seems to outsiders, he appears to tote a pretty hard-line “no double dipsies” policy.
This law doesn’t just do Georgia a disservice with regards to public perception, though that’s certainly an issue; when I tell people I’m from there, they seem to regard it as a minor miracle that I made it out alive, seeing as how most of the news we get about Georgia up here reinforces the notion that it’s a combination of all the worst parts of “Hee-Haw” and “The Deer Hunter.” No, the law seems to revel in the flagrancy with which it endangers the lives of Georgia’s citizens, not to mention those of us who might be visiting, see a few sidearms hanging off hips in a watering hole, and proceed to go into cardiac arrest after being told by the law enforcement authorities we literally dragged into the bar that it’s perfectly legal. You can’t fit that on a headstone, you know?
Just so we’re clear, and so you don’t think I’m being purely reactionary, here’s a fairly comprehensive breakdown of what the law actually allows, per the non-partisan Senate Research Office and Washington Post:
First, broadly speaking, the new law allows people with a license to carry a gun in the following locations:
Bars and associated parking facilities, though gunholders can be forced to leave upon notice by the property owner.
Government buildings (except where entry is typically screened during business hours by security personnel).
Places of worship (only with express approval).
School safety zones, school functions or on school-provided transportation (again, only with approval from the appropriate school official), though not strictly on school premises.
The bill expands the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law, a version of which rose to prominence in the legal debate over the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida. Before, you couldn’t invoke that defense — which provides immunity from prosecution — if you used a banned firearm in self-defense. Now, you can: “this bill provides that a person will be immune from prosecution in using deadly force in self-defense or defense of others or property even if the person utilizes a weapon in violation of [the Georgia Firearms and Weapons Act],” the report finds.
Firearms dealers no longer need to maintain records of sales and purchases for state purposes. (Federal record-keeping requirements still apply, where applicable.)
The governor loses his authority to suspend or limit the carrying or sale of guns.
Banning or restricting lawful firearm possession in public housing is now illegal.
As the AJC reported, the new law expands the pre-emption of local laws. Before, cities could not regulate “gun shows and dealers through zoning or by ordinance,” AJC’s Kristina Torres reported. Now, that applies to all weapons.
The fingerprinting requirement is now removed for the purpose of license renewals.
No one is allowed to maintain a database of information on license holders that spans multiple jurisdictions.
I assume it was the “not on actual school property” and the (not included in this abridged write-up) ban on suppressors for hunting purposes that inspired lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including Democratic Jason Carter, son of President Jimmy Carter and an otherwise staunch opponent of Deal’s policies, to sign onto this piece of garbage legislation.
There are more caveats, sure, but either loopholes exist — property owners can ban firearms in bars they own, but not managers or other employees — or the consequences so timidly approach even a slap on the wrist that it’s not that much of a deterrent for potential offenders.
I’ve got a personal stake in this, though. My father is a pastor, and a good one: he loves his God, loves his family, questions his own faith enough every day to make it stronger, and tries his best to pass along the message of the Lamb of God, not the Uzi of God, every day of his life. The fact that he’s really, really into the Beach Boys and enjoys a good wheat beer every now and again is just icing.
Owing to his profession, I’ve never really considered my father to live a dangerous life. Generally, I still don’t; I’ve attended worship at his church many times and found the parishioners there to be a fairly decent set of folks: hardy, of the earth, simple in their needs and complex in their hearts. But now that this law is in place, it opens up, if only a bit, the possibility of tragedy in a house of worship. He and his committees can certainly vote to ban firearms on the church grounds, but the paltry $100 violation fee is hardly a consequence.
I’ve never quite understood the whole “God and Guns” epidemic — what is so holy about possessing an instrument of death? When the Rapture comes, remember, only the truly good and noble will be brought up to God. The rest will be left to fend for themselves among the wolves and demons, and guns — in a church, in a home, in a school, in a battlefield — will do no good at all.