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Constitutional Carry Debates in Georgia

Gun rights in Georgia are set to enter into an interesting phase of debate. For the past few years, many states (14 so far) have been passing “Constitutional Carry” laws which allow firearms to be carried concealed or openly by anyone legally allowed to possess firearms, without the requirement for a license. This is in contrast to traditional “Concealed Carry” laws which require a license to carry concealed and/or openly.

In the state of Georgia, firearms and concealed carry laws have been liberalized over the last decade, making it easier for people to obtain a Georgia Weapons Carry License and opening up the number of places a licensed person may carry. Much of this liberalization has been targeted at undoing old Jim Crow-era laws which were put in place many decades ago to ensure that potential victims of organized, state-sanctioned violence were unarmed. For example, the prohibition on carrying firearms at “public gatherings” was one such Jim Crow law that was passed in 1870, as a result of the Camilla Massacre, and finally removed in 2010.

With the liberalization of Georgia firearms laws, the pro-freedom movement is approaching a crossroads: work to get rid of the license requirement completely, or expand the number of locations in which a licensed person may carry?

Two gun rights groups in Georgia epitomize the two sides of this debate. On the one hand, the Georgia Gun Owners have as their signature effort the passage of Constitutional Carry in Georgia. On the other hand, GeorgiaCarry.org (GCO) is focused more on the expansion of allowed locations for holders of Georgia carry licenses.

It should be noted that GCO has been instrumental in effecting the liberalization reforms over the last decade, championing legislation and suing government entities which have failed to comply with the law (they even sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to get some sort of compliance with the law on their property). On the other side, Georgia Gun Owners in a statement emphasized the fact that they “spent more than $100,000 to stop Stacey Abrams’ gun control agenda in last November’s general election.”

Georgia Gun Owners believes that a license should not be required to exercise a Constitutionally-protected right. The thinking of GCO, however, seems to be that it would be better to expand the locations where a concealed carrier can go, and that this is much more likely when there is a licensing requirement in place. In addition, many states offer license reciprocity which, of course, requires that a person hold a license for it to be valid in another state (some states that have passed Constitutional Carry still issue licenses for those who want them, for this reason).

Georgia’s Speaker of the House David Ralston was recently quoted by the AJC as saying that the passage of Constitutional Carry and the removal of a licensing requirement is unlikely.

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