ATLANTA – As I walked the streets of Georgia last week, I was thinking about guns.
Sporting a wide smile, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, a radical Republican, signed into law one of the most troubling and potentially dangerous pieces of legislation in our nation’s history: Starting July 1, it will be legal for licensed gun owners in Georgia to pack guns in bars, schools, churches and some government buildings. Deal calls the new state law the “Safe Carry Protection Act,” but his critics correctly refer to it as the “Guns Everywhere bill.”
“Our state has some of the best protections for gun owners in the United States. And today we strengthen those rights protected by our nation’s most revered founding document,” Deal said in signing the bill.
So nothing is sacred anymore. Guns in churches? Come for prayer while packing a pistol? Carry a gun to a bar? Throw back a few brews with a .45 in the waistband? Guns and alcohol are a deadly combination. The law also allows visitors from 28 other states to bring a gun into a Georgia bar without restrictions. Guns in schools?
Deal actually thinks it’s appropriate for people to carry guns in Georgia schools for protection? To protect who from what? This misguided bill could have disastrous consequences for Georgia residents. The website StopTheShootings.org has recorded 387 school shootings across the country since 1992. There have been 12 school shootings in Georgia since 1993.
Last year, in Decatur, Georgia, a gunman terrorized an elementary school, firing in the front office and armed with an assault rifle and nearly 500 rounds of ammunition. And here’s something ironic: Because legislators are concerned about the new gun law, security at public buildings in Atlanta, like the Old Courthouse on Wright Square, is being beefed up. Visitors will soon have to pass through a metal detector installed in response to the new law.
“It deals with the new gun bill the governor signed into law,” Assistant County Manager Michael Kaigler told the Associated Press. “We’re going to start screening individuals who come into the buildings.”
So now Georgia officials feel forced to protect citizens from citizens because they created a law that allows folks to take guns into public buildings? Bill Murrain, a former civil rights lawyer who lives in Atlanta, said the new gun law is problematic.
“I’m not surprised by the sheer idiocy of a legislature which in a 3-month session could not find the wisdom to debate and enact laws which would expand Medicaid extending healthcare coverage to over 600,000 Georgians who have no insurance, a legislature which after a 3-month session has done nothing to create a more friendly job development atmosphere or the same legislature which has done nothing to make education more affordable and accessible for Georgians,” said Murrain, who works closely with Georgia’s health care system.
“They have instead passed bills which eases the carrying of guns in public places, churches, airport, and Little League ball parks,” he added.
Nothing good can come from this bill. Apparently, Deal doesn’t care about the great potential for more shootings in his state. In 2011, gunfire killed 1,175 people in Georgia, including 443 who were murdered, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most up-to-date statistics. Meanwhile, The National Rifle Association called the law “the most comprehensive pro-gun reform legislation introduced in recent history” and the gun rights group GeorgiaCarry.org said it will “restore our right to carry and be allowed to protect ourselves anywhere we go.”
But Rev. Raphael Warnock, of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, brings some sanity to the debate as a leading opponent of the gun law.
“Our politicians, tragically, are owned by the gun lobby,” Warnock told reporters. “We will remind them in November that they work for the people.”
Warnock is right. Getting rid of misguided politicians who support the gun law may be the only way to repeal it.
What do you think?