Opinion Columns & Blogs

‘Constitutional Carry’ or weapons license?

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Recently, a dividing issue among pro-gun supporters is “Constitutional Carry” vs. the state’s requirement for a Georgia Weapons Carry License to carry a firearm in public.

What is “Constitutional Carry”? It’s the ability of any lawful citizen to carry a firearm anywhere in public without a license, just as the Founding Fathers intended. Sixteen states have adopted “Constitutional Carry” (Georgia is not among them). Interestingly, all of these states still have restrictions, such as allowing the practice only outside of city limits, others limit the practice only to their own residents. Some require the firearm be displayed or “open-carried,” still others insist that it be concealed.

While these states have eliminated the license requirement, none have done away with locations where a firearm may not be taken. So infringements remain, and what the citizens of these states have instead is “permit-less carry,” not “Constitutional Carry.” Still, the term is being used by politicians who are seeking new or higher office, even our own gubernatorial candidates are using the phrase as a campaign issue, yet not as an actual goal. Yet, it still has its fervent supporters, even if they fail to realize that they cannot carry in any new locations.

On the opposite side, you have gun owners in Georgia who feel the GWCL is a good thing and consider it an act of responsibility and good faith rather than an infringement. Recent changes in state laws have added many locations where a GWCL holder may carry (most recently college campuses and certain government buildings), has also made the GWCL quicker to get, the cost for a renewal has been cut in half, and there is no mandatory training course.

All of these positives were achieved with no rise in crime, accidents or unjustified shootings by the approxmately 700,000 GWCL holders in Georgia, as critics have wrongly predicted would happen. Most GWCL holders are responsible people who do not mind paying the fee to get the license. Yet, the objections that the “Constitutional Carry” folks have with the requirement (i.e. infringement) make for some heated debates on social media between themselves and those who support the license.

A way to settle this arguing is for the Legislature and governor to approve a bill that A), would allow permit-less carry in all currently allowed locations, and B) would add GWCL holders to the exempted persons list in 16-11-130 of the Georgia Code (adding value to the license by allowing license holders to carry in restricted areas).

It would take a legislator with vision and statesmanship to author such a proposal, but I believe that a few exist, who only need urging from his/her 2A constituents. “Constitutional Carry” (permit-less) is the growing trend, and our legislators would be wise indeed, going into next year’s elections, to give all options, as the one I have just offered, a very close look.

Andy McClure is a resident of Ellijay.