EDITORIAL: The law of ‘intended consequences’

May 28, 2014 

Once again, our legislators in Atlanta have handed local governments a big bill without providing any means to pay for it. This time it comes in the legislation that makes it legal to carry a weapon almost anywhere. Whether you believe gun rights extend to church pews, bars and airports is not the issue. What is the issue is the state mandating a law that has financial implications without addressing the meat and potatoes of how to pay for it. The Safe Carry Protection Act allows individuals with gun carry permits to “carry a weapon in a government building where ingress into such building is not restricted or screened by security personnel during the hours the government building is open for business.”

Here’s where the costs to every taxpayer comes in. If someone, after July 1, wants to go into the tax assessors office carrying a weapon, he or she may do so, unless the tax assessors office sets up a screening process, one it doesn’t have now, that’s manned by a certified law enforcement official. That also goes for the Government Center (formerly City Hall) that has multiple entrances. County commissioners are treading through the requirements of the bill right now. The only thing they know for sure is that compliance will cost big bucks. Atlanta lawmakers have created a boon to the security consulting industry and headaches for every local government. As most people can imagine, unless screening is in place to discover who is and who is not carrying a weapon, there is danger, not only to those county employees, but to bystanders as well. Remember, deputies, by law, can’t detain someone one to ask whether they have a carry permit.

Our legislators have set up a scenario that local governments cannot do anything about. The local elected officials have to spend the money, whatever it costs, to secure government buildings. If they don’t, they open themselves up to liability issues if the unthinkable happens. And, unfortunately, the unthinkable seems to happen frequently.

It’s hard to believe this effort to require local taxpayers to foot the bill for their legislation was not intended. Sponsors of the legislation went to great lengths to ensure gun carry permit holders could carry their weapons almost anywhere -- including airports. Did it slip their minds that securing government buildings all across the state might be costly? Is there one mention of a fund to help local governments pay for the new security measures they have to put in place? Of course not.

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