Georgia Law Would Allow You to Stand Your Ground on Public Transportation

GA_Stand_Your_GroundRepublicans are always complaining that government needs to do what the majority wants at the expense of the minority. That is their raison d’être and it covers a whole slew of causes, from abortion to contraception to voting rights to prayer in school to marriage equality – and to gun ownership. Except, of course, quite often, Republicans turn out not to represent the majority opinion at all, as is the case with Georgia’s House Bill 875, the Safe Carry Protection Act, what Atlanta Progressive News calls the “gun advocates’ dream bill.”

Sponsored by Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, this bill, which would allow guns to be carried in churches, bars, and even some government buildings, passed 119-56 the House and now goes to the Senate for approval. Not all Republicans voted yes, though the vote was generally along party lines. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence cites the case of Republican Representative Chuck Sims, who “said that, as a funeral director, he deals with the tragic aftermath of gun violence. ‘Guns don’t belong in church, and a gun doesn’t belong in a bar. It just doesn’t.’ ”

Worse than expanding the list of places guns can “safely” go, perhaps, is that the bill strengthens the state’s Stand Your Ground law. From now on, should the bill pass, you will be able to stand your ground on public transportation too! And get this: if you “accidentally” bring your gun to the airport or to a secured government building, you won’t even get in trouble for it.

According to the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), House Bill 875 makes these “beneficial” changes to state gun laws:

  • Removal of fingerprinting for renewal of Weapons Carry Licenses (“WCL”).
  • Prohibiting the state from creating and maintaining a database of WCL holders.
  • Creation of an absolute defense for the legal use of deadly force in the face of a violent attack.
  • Removal of the sweeping restrictions on legally carrying a firearm with a WCL in churches and bars, leaving this decision to private property owners.
  • Lowering the age to obtain a concealed WCL for self-defense from 21 to 18 for active duty military, with specific training.
  • Repealing the unnecessary and duplicative state-required license for a firearms dealer, instead requiring only a Federal Firearms License (FFL).
  • Preempting a ban on firearms in public housing, ensuring that the right to self-defense should not be infringed based on where one calls home.
  • Codifying the ability to legally carry, with a WCL, in sterile/non-secure areas of airports.
  • Incorporation of the NICS Improvement Amendments Act for mental health reporting.
  • Stating that under a declared state of emergency, all law-abiding gun owners will not have their Second Amendment rights restricted or infringed by executive authority through Emergency Powers protection.
  • Strengthening current firearms preemption statutes through further clarification of the regulatory authority of local governments, excluding firearm discharge ordinances.
  • Allowing school systems to decide whether staff and faculty may carry a firearm on school property, pending approved training, similar to the NRA’s National School Shield program.
  • Allowing the lawful carry by WCL holders in government buildings where it is not currently restricted or security screening personnel are posted during regular business hours.

The problem is that Georgian’s don’t want this law, at least according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll in January found that Georgians don’t want this gun law:

Among poll respondents, 78 percent opposed allowing guns on the state’s college campuses; 72 percent opposed allowing guns in churches; and 82 percent would mandate any gun owner who wanted to carry a weapon in public to first take a required safety course.

As the AJC said, “Those numbers stayed relatively consistent among rural and urban residents, and conservative, independent and liberal voters.”

Of course, when the numbers are clearly against them on an issue Republicans feel strongly about, the will of the people becomes suddenly irrelevant:

Ramsey, the Republican House leader, said lawmakers can’t set policy based on polling data. “I’m not totally surprised by the polling numbers,” Ramsey said. “I think we’re going to continue to work through with various stakeholders. I know the majority party strongly believes in protecting Georgians’ Second Amendment rights.”

Disregarding the poll entirely, we are told polls don’t matter and that people want the opposite of what the polls say they do. Republicans, however, are more than willing to cite poll numbers when they say what they want them to say.

And it’s not like gun laws like these that increase the number of people carrying concealed weapons actually make people safer. Drinking and packing heat? Carrying a gun into a highly emotionally-charged atmosphere like a church? It’s not like people ever get shot in churches, right?

Oh, wait…What about former church deacon Woodrow Karey, who thought his wife was having an affair with Tabernacle of Praise Worship Center pastor Ronald Harris Sr. and burst into church during a service and gunned him down? We’re supposed to believe a room-full of armed parishioners would have prevented the crime? No danger from cross-fire across the pews? Certainly no children in the line of fire.

And c’mon, it’s not like anything bad is going to happen on a bus full of armed individuals should somebody start shooting.

Let’s face it: you’re not safer: The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence points to “a study from the Violence Policy Center on Texas’ permissive concealed carry law found that license holders were arrested for weapons-related crimes at a rate 81% higher than that of the state’s general population age 21 and older.”

The best thing truly law-abiding citizens can do is to tread warily into places where laws are based on NRA fantasies. Being surrounded by heavily armed strangers is not a particular fantasy of mine. There is a reason that as “civilization” moved further west, communities enacted gun control laws to take violence off the streets. Now it seems we are going in the opposite direction, all our hard-earned lessons unlearned.

A note to Republicans opposed to House Bill 875: This is what happens when a populace throws its support behind a Republican administration in 21st century America. You’ve gotta be willing to take the bad with the bad.

Image from WRCBTV

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