ATLANTA — The Georgia Senate on Wednesday voted to allow licensed gun owners to bring firearms on college campuses and in churches and bars, and to let them take their weapons when dropping off and picking up passengers at airports throughout the state.
Sen. Mitch Seabaugh, who sponsored S.B. 308, said the bill clarifies the firearms carry law for the state’s 300,000 gun owners with permits to carry weapons and leaves the decision up to private property owners whether to exclude people from carrying guns on their property. It passed 41-12 after nearly two hours of debate. The airport measure passed 43-10.
“Georgia’s laws need to be simple to read and easy to understand,” Seabaugh said after the vote. “This legislation brings common sense and clarity.”
Seabaugh, R-Sharpsburg, stressed that the proposal only applies to licensed Georgia gun owners, who he said are “law-abiding citizens” and are not responsible for the types of crimes critics fear will accompany the bill. He said the vote, which had some Democratic support, showed people are beginning to understand the proposal.
Under the measure, it would still be a crime for a gun owner to bring a weapon to a church or bar if the property owner had not granted permission.
The Board of Regents would determine the policy for the state’s college campuses and has opposed the legislation.
The measure removes the 1,000-foot school safety zone clause for licensed carriers, which Seabaugh said was confusing, especially on campuses located in downtown Atlanta with murky boundaries.
The proposal also transfers issuing of licenses from the state’s 159 county probate judges to the Secretary of State’s Office.
Several Democratic senators blasted the bill, which they said will put Georgians at risk.
“It’s idiotic to allow firearms in churches (and) in bars where inebriated people get into arguments,” said Sen. Vincent Fort, D- Atlanta. “Extremism dominated the floor of the state Senate today. “
State Sen. Nan Orrock, another Atlanta Democrat who attempted unsuccessfully to amend the bill, said the proposal will leave the public in the dark and in danger.
“While the Second Amendment is part of the Constitution, we have to look at the rampant loss of life from guns,” she said. “A sense of security is sacrificed by this bill.”
Senate Bill 291, sponsored by Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth, would also notify license holders before their weapons permits expire and would prevent the seizure of a licensed weapon during a state of emergency.
The bills now go to the House for consideration.