Constitutional carry bill approved by Georgia House

The Georgia House has approved a bill that would allow gun owners to carry their firearms in public without a permit.

House Bill 1358 passed 94-57 on early Friday evening, moving to the Senate for more debate. The Senate last month passed a similar measure.

In a tweet Gov. Brian Kemp praised the House for its vote.

"It’s great to see so much support for the 2nd Amendment, as the General Assembly considers bills to uphold this fundamental right," Kemp wrote. "I am committed to working with both the Georgia House and Senate to get Constitutional Carry across the finish line!


What does the constitutional carry bill allow in Georgia?

While those who support the measure said the government should not infringe on citizens' Second Amendment rights, opponents argue those rights are not absolute.

Sen. Jason Anavitarte, the Republican co-sponsor of the so-called constitutional carry legislation, said gun purchases would still trigger background checks, and criminals were unlikely to go through the state’s permit process anyway. He also rejected concerns about the bill’s effect on violence.

"The requirement to have a permit does not deter nor disincentive a criminal from carrying a firearm concealed," he said before the Judiciary committee passed the bill. "They will do it regardless. Permitless carry gives criminals a reason to fear that any potential victim could be armed."

Sen. Elena Parent, a Democrat who represents parts of DeKalb County, pressed Anavitarte about the loss of a background check, suggesting he was presenting a bill that would "remove one of the very small" ways of keeping guns from criminals and certain other people.

Other Democrats on the committee questioned whether the license presented a significant burden to Second Amendment rights and whether law enforcement groups had been consulted.

Anavitarte said concerns about gun violence and safety were best addressed by investing in law enforcement and policing.

Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, has backed the revocation, saying Georgia residents should have their constitutional rights protected and be able to protect themselves and their families amid a spike in violent crime.

(Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images) ((Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images))

What is the current gun carry laws in Georgia?

Currently, Georgians must have a Weapons Carry License, or WCL, in order to carry a concealed weapon in public, although people can carry rifles and shotguns in many places without a permit and carry unloaded guns in cases. Residents have to apply for a WCL through their county's probate court.  Applicants must pass a criminal background check, pay an average fee of $75 and provide their fingerprints. Convicted felons and people who have been hospitalized for mental health problems or received treatment for drugs or alcohol in the years preceding the application are not eligible.

What is next for the bill?

The House version passed on Friday, but will need to be reconciled with a Senate version before it heads to the governor's desk.