During the lively town hall meeting Wednesday, Gregory also fielded questions on gay marriage and gun rights from a friendly group of about 50 residents at the DogFather’s Hot Dogs restaurant near Town Center Mall.
This was the second town hall meeting he’s hosted since ousting state Rep. Judy Manning (R-Marietta) in the Republican primary last year.
Andrew Reaid of Canton complained about the popular practice among Georgia lawmakers who send dollars from their campaign war chests to fellow incumbents up for election.
“They’re keeping each other in office. How do we stop that?” Reaid asked.
In response, Gregory said, “That’s exactly what happens, and it’s already been referred to openly in the House by some individuals as the ‘incumbent protection program.’ I don’t like it.”
Gregory said House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) gave Manning $5,000 in her race against him.
“It came out of his campaign funds, not his personal funds,” Gregory said. “And that’s just kind of what they do. If somebody is challenged, they shove the money over to that person and try and prop that person up to keep them in. You know, every situation is different, but I think if your election is supported solely based on House leadership, then you are pretty much tied to being their rubber stamp for the session.”
Gregory said he wasn’t sure what the solution was when it came to one lawmaker funneling campaign dollars to another.
“Making more regulations won’t stop people from being unethical,” he said. “Unethical people will do what they’re going to do regardless under the table. I don’t know what the solution is other than people to understand that — it may be to try and counteract it, try and be involved, try and do their research when they’re voting.”
Another audience member asked Gregory if Georgia would legalize gay marriage.
Gregory said marriage licenses started as a way of preventing interracial marriages.
“You know, marriage is a religious institution,” Gregory said. “It belongs in the church, and it should be between you and your God. It’s not the domain of the government. I don’t think anybody should be asking government permission to get married. So it takes gay marriage out of the whole equation. It’s not an issue anymore if it’s not a government thing. It’s a church thing. If your church is in favor of gay marriage, they would marry you. If your church is not, they won’t marry gay people. It would be up to the church. It has nothing to do with the government in my mind. It should not have to do with the government.”
Gregory said he believes that marriage is between a man and a woman.
However, “I don’t mean to impose that on anybody else or any church,” he said. “It should be a nongovernment issue.”
The freshman lawmaker said he’s received an overwhelmingly positive response regarding the four gun bills he pre-filed last month.
The bills would eliminate the licensing requirement for citizens to carry concealed weapons in the state, allow the carrying of firearms at churches and universities, and stop the governor’s ability to limit the sale and transfer of firearms during a state of emergency.
“These gun bills have been getting a lot of press, and I’ll tell you the personal response that I’m getting — I mean obviously it makes a good story — but I’m getting hundreds and hundreds of emails and phone calls and support of these bills like you wouldn’t believe, and very, very few, I am getting some, but very, very few people are calling in opposition to these bills, which is a very good sign to me that the people understand how important these fundamental rights are,” he said.
One audience member asked when the bills would be voted on in the Georgia House.
“You know, realistically I’m a nobody to them, all right, so I’m a freshman,” Gregory said. “‘Who does he think he is putting bills in?’ Really it’s probably going to come down to if there is overwhelming grassroots support. They don’t want to take risky votes. They want safe legislation. They want budgets. They want things that they can’t get an opponent over, so it is not in their interest to put up bills that take a stand on something. So it is going to take a lot of pressure, and I’m going to be working as much as I can from the inside for that, and I’m going to be trying to build coalitions with other people because there is really broad support for this sort of legislation as well as other pro-liberty legislation, I can already tell that.”
Ralston and his leadership team are the ones who decide whether the bills will be voted on, Gregory said.
“Unfortunately, whether a bill comes up for a vote or not is pretty much at the discretion of the Speaker of the House and maybe a couple of other people up top there, and the rest of us are just either rubber stamps or, you know, I don’t know what,” Gregory said.
But that’s not going to prevent Gregory from filing bills he believes in, he said.
“It really doesn’t matter if they get a vote or not. I’m still going to try and put forward legislation based on whether it’s right,” he said.
Gregory said it was his goal to see more “liberty-oriented” Republicans elected.
“It’s the only way we’re going to save this country,” he said. “When we talk about liberty, we’re talking about the philosophy of the founding of this country. We’re talking about what our Founding Fathers actually believed. What they wrote. At the time they were referred to as classical liberals. Today they would be considered libertarian. I believe that the libertarian base of the Republican Party is the faction of the Republican Party that truly perpetuates the spirit and the message of the founding of this country.”
Gregory, 34, and wife, Samantha, have three children. He runs his own computer software company, Possum Delight Technologies.