House Bill 60, which originally aimed at allowing active and retired judges to carry weapons, was amended in the final week to include portions of HB 875 that the NRA’s lobbying arm termed “the most comprehensive pro-gun reform legislation introduced in recent state history.” The scope was reduced considerably in the last-minute sausage grinding by House and Senate.
The bill, which went to Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk, prohibits taking guns into a place of worship “unless the governing body or authority of the place of worship permits the carrying of weapons or long guns by license holders.” No specific procedure is given for a church to say whether or not it permits weapons. It’s not clear if the house of worship has to post its policy somewhere or just respond to requests from worshipers wishing to slide into their pews carrying sidearms.
There’s a huge difference in penalties for violations by licensed and unlicensed toters. A license holder who takes his shooting iron into a place of worship that doesn’t permit it “shall not be arrested but shall be fined not more than $100.” However, the unlicensed worshiper packing a gun in violation of the law “shall be punished as for a misdemeanor.” That can be a maximum fine of $1,000, a maximum of 12 months in jail or both or 12 months in a state diversion center.
As for toting guns in bars, HB 60 simply removes bars from the list of places where guns are prohibited in Georgia. That’s a good enough reason all by itself for Gov. Deal to veto this bad bill. The idea that guns and liquor can mix without combustion is ridiculous and, worse, dangerous to unsuspecting unarmed patrons.
HB 60 as amended also allows the use of silencers for hunting on a person’s private property or property for which the owner has given “verifiable permission” for use of a silencer “and on public lands in areas designated by” the Department of Natural Resources. This needs more study.
Good will among men disappeared when Senate Bill 283, the so-called “Merry Christmas Bill,” got snagged on differences between Senate and House. The measure would have allowed a local school system to “educate students about the history of traditional winter celebrations” and allow “students and school system staff to offer traditional greetings regarding the celebrations, including, but not limited to: (1) “Merry Christmas,” (2) “Happy Hanukkah,” and (3) “Happy Holidays.” School systems also would be allowed to have holiday displays on school property.
But the House added a lot of its rewrite of state elementary and secondary education laws to SB 283, evoking defeat in the Senate. The Georgia House turned out to be the Grinch that stole “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hanukkah.” Our legislators should know that Santa’s not the only one making a list, as in Election Day.