MILLEDGEVILLE — People licensed to carry a firearm could bring their guns in bars, churches and school areas under legislation given initial approval Thursday, March 7 by Georgia lawmakers.
House Republicans voted House Bill 512 through 117-56 on Crossover Day, the 30th day of Georgia’s annual 40-day legislative session. The legislation now heads to the state Senate.
“I’m sure the Senate will change it somewhat when they get a hold of it this next week. We’ll see what they do,” Independent state Rep. Rusty Kidd, District 145, said. “I don’t know if anybody knows what the Senate is thinking on that. They just got it a couple of days ago.”
Under the plan school administrators could arm employees, a move that Republican backers say would deter attacks on school.
Kidd is OK with certain school personnel carrying a weapon. He added the bill seems to uphold the second amendment by eliminating restrictions limiting where citizens can carry.
Democrats urged lawmakers to reject the bill, referring to recent massacres in Colorado and Connecticut.
“I have a hard time understanding why we are responding to a series of tragedies by expanding the likelihood of danger,” said state Rep. Karla Drenner, D-Avondale Estates last week. “Carrying a gun makes one more likely to be shot. Policy should be based on facts, not on rhetoric or assumption.”
Section 1-7 of HB 512 mandates sufficient training of approved personnel prior to authorizing such personnel to carry weapons. At a minimum training on judgment pistol shooting, marksmanship, and a review of current laws relating to the use of force for defense of self and others are requirements.
If approved education personnel already have law enforcement or military background, the training may be substituted.
Local school boards aren’t lawfully required to allow any guns.
The bill says “the selection of approved personnel to possess or carry a weapon within a school safety zone, at a school function, or on a bus or other transportation furnished by a school shall be done strictly on a voluntary basis. No personnel shall be required to possess or carry a weapon within a school safety zone, at a school function, or on a bus or other transportation furnished by a school and shall not be terminated or otherwise retaliated against for refusing to possess or carry a weapon.”
The local board of education shoulders responsibility for any associated costs. Nothing prohibits personnel from paying for part or all of such costs or using any other funding mechanism available, according to the bill.
The bill would also allow people who have received voluntary inpatient care at a mental hospital or substance center to receive a license to carry a weapon.
Right now, judges have discretion over whether to issue licenses to those applicants. Judges would be required to check whether applicants have received involuntary treatment and could refuse to issue licenses in those cases.
More than two dozen gun bills have been filed this year in the Georgia Legislature, many of them seeking to expand the ability of licensed Georgians to carry weapons. Kidd said most of those bills were knee jerk reactions to the Connecticut incident.
The representative said the house committee worked diligently on HB 512.
“They worked on that bill for a couple of months to try and come up with something they thought was reasonable and protected everybody’s rights on weapons,” Kidd said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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