Legislation that would let Georgians carry firearms without a permit cleared a state Senate committee Tuesday 6-3 on a party-line vote.
Majority Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee supported the bill as striking a blow for protection of Georgians’ Second Amendment right to bear arms. Democrats opposed it, arguing that loosening the state’s already lax gun laws would increase violent crime.
So-called “constitutional carry” bills introduced in the Republican-controlled General Assembly going back to the middle of the last decade have failed to gain traction. But with Democrats making headway in the last couple of election cycles, Gov. Brian Kemp and GOP legislative leaders are backing a permit-less gun bill in this election year as part of a conservative agenda aimed at Republican base voters.
Adding a government-imposed barrier to the free possession of firearms only punishes law-abiding citizens without affecting those who break the law, Sen. Jason Anavitarte, R-Dallas, the bill’s chief sponsor, told committee members Tuesday.
“The requirement to have a permit does not deter the criminal. They’re going to carry one anyway,” he said. “This bill puts law-abiding gun owners on an even playing field with criminals.”
But Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, said more guns in the hands of more people does not equate to less gun violence.
“Guns intensify violent encounters, upping the stakes and worsening the outcomes,” she said.
Twenty-one states have adopted constitutional carry laws, said Bethany Young of the National Association for Gun Rights. Tennessee and Texas passed the law last year, and Florida and Alabama are considering it, she said.
“Constitutional carry states consistently rank among the safest in the country,” she said.
But Fallon McClure, organizing and elections director at the Working Families Party, cited polls showing most Georgians oppose constitutional carry.
“Georgians want investments in their community that promote public safety,” she said.
The bill now heads to the Senate Rules Committee to schedule a floor vote.
This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.