One of the most widely debated issues during the 2013 legislative session was an expansion of Georgians’ right to own and carry firearms. In the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, CT many states chose to further limit their citizens’ access to weapons. Through HB 512 and SB 101, our General Assembly attempted to expand the number of places we could carry. Though the legislative session came to a close at midnight on March 28 before the House and Senate could come to an agreement on the bill, debate will restart on the initiative when we return to the Capitol next January.
With this issue returning, there are several things that Georgians should understand about our rights, our state’s firearm initiatives and the process at the Capitol.
Most Americans are familiar with the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution which reads, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This guarantee protects citizens from the Federal Government infringing upon the right to bear arms. It does not dictate that every State must allow the same, making it very important that citizens are familiar with their State’s position on this issue as well.
In Georgia, our State Constitution promises that, “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, but the General Assembly shall have power to prescribe the manner in which arms may be borne.” This means that the manner in which Georgians are able to bear arms is decided by your Representatives in the General Assembly. This is why it is so crucial that you consider candidates’ positions on this issue when you cast your ballot.
It is my belief that Americans have a natural, God-given right to defend ourselves and to own the tools with which to do so. These bills were sponsored to bring State law further into compliance with this principal.
HB 512 was the first piece of gun legislation passed out of the House this year. The House Bill accomplished several things including allowing “Church Carry” (allowing congregations to decide for themselves if firearms would be allowed in places of worship), “Campus Carry” (allowing for licensed individuals to carry on college campuses), permitting military personnel ages 18-21 to carry, and much more. This was a strong pro-firearm bill and expanded Georgians’ access to these tools and expanded Georgians’ second amendment rights.
After being transferred to the opposite chamber, it returned as SB 101 in a very different form. The Senate was intent on two provisions that made many in the House uneasy with the final product. They attempted to remove Campus Carry and to require training for Georgians aged 21-25 in order to acquire their license.
As a 23 year old Georgian, my opinion against this suggested training requirement is very strong. I am a well educated husband, taxpayer, employee, state legislator and citizen. After nearly three years of having (and utilizing) my Georgia Firearms License, I have never been a danger to anyone. To require training of this age bracket is simply a mechanism to create a door through which training can be required of all Georgians. As another Representative so eloquently stated, “We would never suggest requiring training in order to allow a citizen to vote, because we truly believe it to be a Right.” Though our neighbor South Carolina requires citizens to receive training in order to carry handguns, their gun murder rate is nearly a full percentage point higher than Georgias (4.5% vs 3.8% in 2010). These requirements are not proven to reduce gun violence. They simply enact more control on citizens’ constitutional rights.
These changes in the bill were a large driver for its delay into next year’s session. As the General Assembly renews its debate on the subject, it will be very important that your Representatives and Senators understand your views. If I have the honor of representing you in our General Assembly, I would ask that you please reach out to me at Michael@CaldwellForHouse.com and let me know if you believe that all law-abiding Georgians have a right to keep and bear arms.
Published in the August 2013 issue of Townelaker.