Georgia’s permitless carry handgun bill, which would eliminate the need for a permit to carry a handgun, is getting mixed opinions from law enforcement experts.
Senate Bill 319, which recently passed a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with a 6–3 vote, would eliminate a substantial part of the permit process needed to own and carry a handgun, which includes applying for the license, submitting one’s fingerprints, getting a background check, and paying a fee of $75.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said he supports the legislation.
The bill’s sponsor, Senator Jason Anavitarte, said the purpose of the bill would be to allow Georgians greater access to their constitutional rights to bear firearms.
“‘Constitutional carry’ provides a safe and legal option for law-abiding gun owners in our state to exercise their Second Amendment rights, and I look forward to discussing the facts — not partisan narrative — about SB 319 in the coming weeks,” Anavitarte stated.
The “lawful weapons carrier” bill excludes those with prior felony or drug convictions, mental health or drug abuse issues, or who have been involuntarily sent to a mental health hospital in the previous five years from carrying handguns.
The bill also does not allow guns to be on the premises of places that ban guns, such as government buildings or airports, and would still require a background check if buying a gun from a store or dealer.
Law enforcement’s view of the bill was mixed.
Danny Agan, a retired Atlanta Police Department veteran, said that having a permit is “not such a bad idea” and that it would separate those who are serious and responsible about gun safety from those who are not.
“It likely removes those who are less focused and serious about gun safety and the responsibility that goes with gun ownership from just being able to strap a gun on and walk out the door,” the former homicide commander said. “The permit maybe makes a person give deeper thought to what they are doing when carrying a gun, since they went through the process.”
Other law enforcement experts do not think the bill will drastically impact their job to keep the public safe.
Retired Cherokee County Sheriff Roger Garrison noted that long guns could already be carried without a license without any required training or waiting period.
“I see no need in punishing law-abiding citizens executing their constitutional rights, primarily in today’s environment,” Garrison said, referring to the increase in crime.
Terry Norris, a lobbyist for the state’s sheriff’s association, said his organization is also split on the issue.
Gun control activists argued that eliminating the licensing process would remove the few safeguards the state imposes on gun owners, such as background checks. However, it’s unclear what impactful meaning background checks have, as law enforcement cannot ask someone carrying a gun whether they have a license.
In addition, the private sale of guns does not require background checks in the state, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution report.
Finally, gun rights advocates stated that the bill would not bar people from obtaining a license if they wanted one, which comes with its own benefits.
Representative Alan Powell said that licenses could allow people to bypass background checks when purchasing a gun, as well as being able to carry handguns in states with the same regulations.
“If and when the state goes to permitless carry, I’m still telling people that it is highly recommended that they keep their concealed weapons permit,” Powell said.