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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Georgia Law Expands Right to Carry Concealed Firearms

The New York Times reports:

The 29-page law, which goes into effect on July 1, was approved overwhelmingly last month by the Republican-controlled Legislature with some support from Democrats. It will expand the roster of places where gun owners who hold concealed-carry permits can take their weapons to include bars. Critics said its scope created new dangers.
The law permits those with licenses to carry concealed firearms to carry firearms in airports where unscreened passengers or visitors are allowed. And it allows school districts to permit their teachers to have firearms.

The bill does have its limits, so some gun rights advocates are still unsatisfied:

And although the law is a significant victory for proponents of gun rights, it is less broad than some of them envisioned. Houses of worship are still allowed to bar weapons, and a proposal that would have permitted guns on college campuses faltered during the legislative session. 
“Was HB60 all we wanted?” GeorgiaCarry.Org, a nonprofit group, posted on its website in March, referring to the bill. “Of course not! But we feel that we got a great bill and this will clear the way for some great improvements in the future. And those of you who have been with us for any length of time know, we ask for everything we want and accept what we can get without giving up any of the gains we have made in the past. We keep marching down the field, and one day, we will get all our rights back.”
The bill expands Second Amendment protections far beyond the U.S. Constitutional minimum that the Supreme Court laid out in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago. In both of those cases, the Court strongly implied that the government could still restrict firearm possession on governmental property and in schools.

Georgia's constitution mirrors the Second Amendment, with Article 1, section 1, paragraph 8 of the Georgia Constitution stating that "The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Georgia law seems to mirror the scope of Second Amendment law. The Georgia Supreme Court, in Hertz v. Bennett, 751 S.E.2d 90 (Ga. 2013) held that a statute outlawing the possession of firearms by convicted felons did not violate the state constitution -- which is consistent with limiting language in Heller and McDonald.

Some organizations who have raised questions about the law say that they may challenge the law down the road. But now that the law is in place, I expect that any attempt to limit the new protections would be viewed as an attempt to limit the right to bear arms and would be met with serious opposition.

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