Amidst supporters ignorantly flaunting their “Guns Save Lives” buttons and hats,—courtesy of the NRA (National Rifle Association)—Governor Nathan Deal signed the Safe Carry Act, nicknamed the “guns everywhere legislation,” into law on April 23 in the country town of Ellijay, Georgia.
Starting July 1, unless the property owner explicitly denies permission, permit-carrying Georgia residents will be able to freely carry loaded guns in school districts, workplaces, bars, churches, some government buildings and even up until the TSA checkpoint of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, the busiest international airport in the world. Considering shooting incidents have recently been cropping up all over the nation, how could decreasing gun restrictions be a smart idea? The answer is simple: it isn’t one, at least not for protecting the safety of Georgia citizens.
According to Governor Deal, the law was designed to protect the Second Amendment, which he claims “should be at the forefront of our minds,” (CNN). If the Governor keeps the right to bear arms at the forefront of his mind, then why does the new law prohibit guns in—of all places—the State Capitol building? It is hypocritical that Deal is allowing the brandishing of guns anywhere but his own workplace, protecting himself from the dangers of the law he just created. Ironic, isn’t it?
Upon examining how the Safe Carry Act came to be, it is apparent that this new law protects Deal more than any of the people he serves. Working directly with Representative Rick Jasperse on the legislation was none other than the NRA, which is endorsing the current Governor for reelection and upholding his 17-year-long “A” rating in Congress (liberty.com and CNN). The NRA has always lobbied for gun legislation; thus pleasing the organization by signing this bill into law was more of a smart political move for Deal than an effort to protect the people of this state. All of this Second Amendment propaganda serves as a mask, covering up the fact that he is using this law to protect his campaign. Deal wants us to believe that he is protecting our rights, but they were never even in danger anyway. All of the provisions the law has changed were already constitutional (CNN).
The Safe Carry Act is definitely still constitutional, but how helpful is it? Admittedly, allowing guns in bars and such enables people—especially women—to protect themselves from potentially sketchy dates, but I can think of no other instance in which a gun would be necessary in these new places. The law mainly serves people who always have their gun on their person, protecting them from being penalized when they forget to leave it at home. I understand that it would be unfortunate for a consistently law-abiding citizen to be punished simply for carrying his or her gun. Although, as Deal admits, only “approximately five percent of our population” is even in this situation, being the holders of a Georgia Weapons Carry License (CNN). The possible forgetfulness of five percent of Georgia residents is not reason enough to loosen up on gun control; preventing violence for 100 percent of Georgia residents is a greater priority.
Regarding the places included in the Safe Carry Act, there are two things that especially don’t mix with guns: Jesus and alcohol. I’ve always felt safe in church since it’s the last place I would expect there to be violence, but now when we “offer each other the sign of peace,” the person greeting me with one hand could be holding a gun in the other. In bars all it takes is one angry drunk with a loaded gun and a lack of enforcement to cause a catastrophe.
It should go without saying that airports are off-limits. After all of the efforts to combat terrorism since September 11, enabling people to carry guns in our airport’s terminals, where people from all over the world commingle, seems like a step backwards; it could even create an international emergency. With this law, Georgia is asking for its own Sandy Hook story, or worse.
However, Georgia residents do not share the same death wish as the people who represent them, contrary to the beliefs of the bill’s supporters. Jerry Henry, director of Georgia Carry, one of the local groups that promoted the bill, assumed, “You can bet those politicians who voted for it knew what their constituents wanted” (Tampa Bay Times). The reality is quite the contrary; a poll conducted by Abt SRBI of New York in January reveals that over 70 percent of Georgia voters disapprove of permitting guns in the locations the new law allows, especially on school campuses and in churches. Instead, those who were polled said that the main issue they wanted our legislature to tackle this session was transportation (ajc.com). Therefore, the Georgia General Assembly has not been advocating for the people it serves but has instead been acting on the corrupt wishes of lobbyists like those of the NRA and Georgia Carry.
The aforementioned button-and-hat-wearers would probably back up their position with Deal’s statement, “This law gives added protections to those who have played by the rules—and who can protect themselves and others from those who don’t play by the rules” (CNN). Sure, it is a valid point that those who want to carry guns for malicious purposes are going to do so no matter what, with or without rules in place. There is a problem with this logic, though. If an officer spots someone carrying a weapon in public, the law-enforcer will be forbidden by the Safe Carry Act from enforcing the law; the officer cannot stop that person to see if he or she has a gun permit (Tampa Bay Times). While only people with permits can carry guns as they please, if no one can check for a permit, then the rule is impossible to establish. Thus, how will anyone know what the gun-holder’s intentions are until it is too late?
Under the conditions of the new Safe Carry Act, there is no foolproof plan to keep guns everywhere from facilitating countless tragedies. This law simply must be reversed, or at least revised to enable the permit rule to be carried out. Though even with this revision, the carrying of guns in extra locations does not create as many helpful situations as potentially deadly ones. Furthermore, the common people were not asking for this; the lobbyists who protect Nathan Deal’s career were. Our representatives need to put the guns down and focus on what matters: the wishes of their constituents.
There is a lot of confusion regarding this new bill, so, after reading the document myself, I am prepared to protect the Safe Carry Act for what it is.
The primary purpose of the act is to clarify the massive grey-area that existed between what was legal and what was illegal regarding the carry, use and licensing of guns and the rights of legal gun-carriers. It also helps to prevent the unfair incrimination of people who own firearms and to remove unnecessary restrictions over where and when license-holders can safely carry their weapons (House Bill 60).
Most of the people who are complaining about the effects of the act are taking paraphrased rumors that have trickled through the grapevine as undeniable facts, when they are often just rash suppositions made by half-informed half-wits.
The law will not make it so that all of your teachers can come to school packing heat (that is called jumping to conclusions, kids). Only select, license-holding persons can carry a weapon, only in school districts that specifically allow it and only with permission from an administrator for a particular situation. A person who gets permission to carry a weapon onto school property on one occasion will have to get renewed permission for each different occasion and people who violate the newly-clarified laws will be punished severely with fines and potential imprisonment (House Bill 60).
The law will not make it so that anyone can get a concealed-weapon permit without getting finger-printed. If you read the act closely, you might see that it actually says that finger prints do not have to be taken for a permit renewal, not for permit obtainment, and this makes sense because most people do not get a new set of fingerprints every five years. Something also worth mentioning: yes, there will be some criminals who will be able to obtain a legal carry license. This is because when people are young and stupid, they sometimes get into trouble with the law (underage drinking, use of illegal drugs, etc.) and many people learn from this experience, so if someone goes five years without being convicted again, they may apply for a concealed weapons license. The presiding judge and the Georgia Bureau of Investigations will determine whether they would be a threat to society if licensed. In theory, they will do their best to protect Georgia from a raging hoard of dangerous felons legally brandishing every weapon they own.
The law will make it so that licensed individuals may carry their weapons into bars and places of worship if (and only if) the owner of the establishment allows it. The people who are against this action of the law are the same people who are making the law necessary: the people who antagonize all gun carriers as being violent, untrustworthy individuals. There are perfectly logical reasons to carry a gun into a bar or place of worship and those who refuse to concede that are close-minded and need to understand that the world we live in is not the world that was lovingly illustrated in your children’s books growing up.
Here is a hypothetical in support of the new law: imagine for a moment that you are a going on a first date at a bar. You know little to nothing about this person, except his or her phone number. If you are cautious and aware of the incredible persistence of human trafficking in America, then you might want to bring your concealed weapon with you, just in case this random stranger happens to be a seasoned kidnapper. You can either become a hermit and never meet new people or take reasonable steps to protect yourself from the odds.
Another hypothetical: you are in a place of worship and you forgot to take off your concealed weapon because you take it everywhere, you get caught, and then you have to pay a huge fine. Imagine how unfair this would be, especially if it is in a place of worship that is not for the religion that you practice.
Another: you take a U.S. History class and realize that, about two-hundred years ago, the government promised that they would not try to mandate how any religious institution met or operated, so it only makes sense that they should not have laws against carrying weapons into a building that should be treated just like any other building (except schools), legally speaking.
This law is not a senseless victory for the radical, gun-waving, ‘Merica-chanting conservatives. It is a victory for everyone who believes in justice and not incriminating people who want to carry a weapon with permission from the government. The criminals are the people who have no interest in asking the government for permission to carry a weapon; the criminals are the people who are afraid of this law passing, because it means that they just might be thwarted by a prepared person who happened to have his or her hand-gun at the ready.
To get the facts for yourself, the entire Safe Carry Act (or House Bill 60) is available at http://www.legis.ga.gov.
(cover photo courtesy Enterline Design Services LLC/Thinkstock)