Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed a bill Wednesday that allows Georgians with concealed carry permits to bring their guns into many more public places than they could before, including schools, bars, churches, parts of airports and government buildings.
The Safe Carry Protection Act enjoyed strong support from the National Rifle Association, which called it “the most comprehensive pro-gun reform bill in state history,” and opposition from gun safety advocates like former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords’ group Americans for Responsible Solutions, which dubbed it the “guns everywhere” legislation.
Deal, who faces a GOP primary on May 20, defended the law at a signing ceremony on Wednesday. “People who follow the rules can protect themselves and their families from people who don’t follow the rules,” he said. “The Second Amendment should never be an afterthought. It should reside at the forefronts of our minds.”
Even Deal’s Democratic opponent in the general election, State Sen. Jason Carter, former President Jimmy Carter’s grandson, supported the bill in the legislature. The bill had failed in three previous legislative sessions, but passed the State House and Senate with strong majorities earlier this spring.
Some of its more controversial provisions, however, were stripped during debate, including a measure that would have legalized carrying on campuses and would have required houses of worship to allow guns unless specifically banned. (In the final law, that measure is reversed so that religious leaders must “opt in” to have people carry.)
The law, which takes effect July 1, restricts gun access for anyone a court finds mentally incompetent or insane, but does not allow Georgia to maintain a database of gun owners.
The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012, unleashed federal and state efforts to tighten gun restrictions. But federal background check legislation failed in the Senate just over a year ago, and many more state efforts to loosen rather than tighten gun restrictions were enacted in the year after the Sandy Hook shooting.