State Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) said the legislation that passed the House on Thursday is “a gun personal protection safety issue.”
“People can now defend themselves in more places than ever before on college campuses, in places of worship in more public places,” Ehrhart said. “I think it was an excellent piece of legislation. I’m proud to vote for it.”
Opposition to an amendment
State Rep. Charles Gregory (R-Kennesaw) said he favored many parts of the bill but opposed an amendment that could restrict guns rights. That amendment, Gregory said, would allow a police officer who overhears someone make a threat to report that person into a database. The information could then be used by a judge to prohibit the person from obtaining a weapons license.
Gregory went to the well of the House on Thursday to speak against the language.
“The idea that a law enforcement officer, without notice, or due process, would be able to unilaterally put an individual into a database to be used to deny that individual his God-given natural rights is extremely disconcerting,” Gregory said.
Gregory said he would have voted in favor of the bill were it not for “this unconstitutional violation of due process.”
He said he intends to work with his colleagues in the Senate to have the amendment stripped from the bill.
“Mental health is the new form of gun control,” he said. “The left has figured out that they can’t get an assault weapons ban, so this is what they’re going after — these mental health provisions, and it’s a very, very dangerous, slippery slope, and we see that in the amendment to HB 512 that was introduced today.”
Guns on college campuses
State Rep. Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna) opposed the bill, saying that college presidents are against the idea of having guns on campus.
Evans said the bill also restricts a bar owner’s rights. Existing law allows a bar owner to decide whether to allow guns to be brought into the establishment or not, she said.
Under the proposed law, which must first be approved by the Georgia Senate and signed by the governor, “it will not allow a bar owner to overall restrict you from coming in with a gun,” Evans said.
The bar owner could ask the person to leave if they saw the gun, but Evans said if the patron kept it concealed, the bar owner would never know. And by the time the patron pulled out the gun, the situation may have escalated to a dangerous level, she said.
“I think the idea of taking away the right of a business owner to decide whether they want guns on their property or not is really something that goes against something that Republicans are screaming about every day, which is private businesses and their rights to conduct their businesses,” Evans said.
The bill also gives school boards the option to designate one or more administrators to possess a weapon in a school safety zone. If a school system decides to participate in this option, chosen administrators would have to meet training requirements proscribed by the local school board. The chosen administrators would also have to voluntarily agree to carry a weapon and obtain a weapons license.
Too much in one bill
State Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan (D-Austell), who voted against the bill, called it bad policy to combine so many different aspects related to guns into one bill.
“I am most concerned about the fact that in K-12 schools that there will be some adults who will have a gun, and I don’t think there is an adequate process in place to make sure that parents have a say in that,” Morgan said.
Morgan said she has heard from many college students as far south as Valdosta who oppose having guns on campus.
“I just don’t think we’ve done a good job of listening to the people who are directly impacted by these policies,” she said.
Mental fitness provisions
Introduced by state Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper), House Bill 512 would not allow weapons in college residence halls and competitive sporting events. Private college campuses would be able to determine for themselves whether to allow firearms on campus.
Jasperse said the bill makes it mandatory for a probate judge to perform an inquiry with the Georgia Criminal Information Center to determine whether the applicant has received involuntary treatment ordered by a court or medical professional. Applicants who have received involuntary treatment within the last five years could only receive a weapons license if the probate judge determines that the applicant is mentally fit.
The bill also prevents any person falling into any of the following categories from receiving a weapons license: (1) anyone who has been under the care of a guardian or a conservator appointed to represent that person as a result of a mental illness or substance dependency within the last five years; (2) anyone who has been found mentally incompetent to stand trial; (3) anyone who has been found not guilty by reason of insanity; (4) anyone who is a registered sex offender; or (5) anyone who has made a threat against another person that was reported to the GCIC within the last five years.
The gun bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.