Georgia House Committee Approves Gun Advocates’ Dream Bill


(APN) ATLANTA — After two days of hearings, the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee of the Georgia House of Representatives voted 8 to 4 in favor of HB 875.  


Photograph by Gloria Tatum




The bill, if enacted, would allow people with gun permits to carry weapons in bars, churches, schools, and some government buildings.  Next it will go to the Rules Committee and then to the full House for a vote.



“We hope it does not pass in the House.  This is a very, very, very dangerous bill.  This seems to be a license to kill,” State Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta) told Atlanta Progressive News.



“It is providing you with a vehicle and a tool to circumvent the legal system, to give you full right to to kill someone is what this bill, to me, does.  I don’t think this bill is about protecting anyone.  I think this bill is dangerous for so many reasons.  One, it allows individuals to take weapons into bars, where individuals primarily consume alcohol,” Rep. Waites (D-Atlanta) said.  



Four Democrats–Reps. Gloria Frazier (D-Hephzibah), Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta), Mack Jackson (D-Sandersville), and Waites–voted against the bill.  One Democrat, Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Jonesboro), voted for the bill.  All Republican members of the Committee who were present, voted or the bill.



The first day of Committee hearings was dominated by opponents of the bill.   Clergy from numerous denominations and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense advocated against HB 875.



“College presidents, law enforcement officials, the county commissioners, the municipal officials, everybody has been clear about their positions on this bill and have spoken out against this bill,” Rep. Waites said.   



On the second day of committee hearings, numerous citizens, primarily consisting of White men, explained to the Committee why they believed they needed to carry guns everywhere 24 hours a day, seven days a week.   



Many pro-gun advocates from the National Rifle Association (NRA) testified how more guns in public places will make us more safe.  They all wore buttons that read “Guns Saves Lives.”   



Georgia is about to make it legal for registered gun owners to carry their weapons almost everywhere.



In Florida, national attention has focused on two prominent cases were armed White men have killed unarmed Black teen age boys and used “Stand Your Ground” as their defense.  In the first case, George Zimmerman was acquitted.   Michael Dunn’s court trial, for killing Jordan Davis over loud music, has just started.



Like in Florida and other Southern states, Stand Your Ground Laws makes it legal to kill anyone one perceives as a threat, eliminating the legal requirement to retreat when possible that currently exists in some situations.



With Stand Your Ground already in place, HB 875 will arm more people in more public places in Georgia.  These two laws together could be a potent recipe for disaster.



At the HB 875 gun hearing, the Bishop family from Pine Mountain, Georgia, testified about the 2007 murder of their son, Jamie, at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.  A deranged student killed 32 people at Virginia Tech and wounded others on April 16, 2007.



“We reject the notion that consenting to guns in schools for persons with a concealed-carry permit would better prevent the sort of senseless violence that took 32 lives at Virginia Tech,” Michael Bishop testified to the committee members.  “Allowing guns to proliferate in our society as HB 875 would do with no serious requirement for expanded background checks or training is a recipe for more, rather than less, gun violence.”



“Are you, our elected officials, going to answer to the majority of your constituents; or to a vocal extremist minority more concerned about its personal safety than public safety, and wedded to the schoolboy fantasy that in any mass shooting one of their numbers will step up and save the day a la Bruce Willis in yet another Die Hard sequel?” Bishop asked the Committee.



A recent poll by the Atlanta Journal and Constitution newspaper shows that 78 percent of those polled oppose allowing guns on the state’s college campuses; 72 percent opposed allowing guns in churches; and 82 percent would mandate any gun owner who wanted to carry a weapon in public to first take a required safety course.



“I’m an NRA member of the Board of Directors and I speak on behalf of the NRA.  I want to communicate to you from them our strong support of HB 875 sponsored by Rep. Rick Jasperse. The components of this bill in opening up more locations across the state where law-abiding citizens will have the ability to protect themselves against violent attackers are of paramount importance to enhance the personal safety of Georgia residents,” Carolyn Meadows told the Committee.



“Would you not agree that bars are a place where individuals consume excessive amounts of alcohol?” Rep. Waites asked Meadows.



“I don’t frequent them, so I’m not real sure.  I would trust the fact that people who have armed themselves would be responsible,” Meadows answered.



Laughter from a few and gasps of disbelief from others came from the packed room.



“Would you agree that guns and alcohol do not mix?” Rep. Waites asked.



“I don’t know.  At the Lord’s supper, they had wine, ” Meadows responded.



“According to the research, the American Academy of Pediatrics that treated over 7,300 children who were hospitalized due to gun wounds.  They have offered a suggestion that our society would be much safer without guns.  Would you not agree with that statement?” Rep. Waites asked.




“No I would not,”  Meadows said.



“Studies have revealed that the frontal lobe of the brain which controls the higher thoughts and urges does not fully mature until twenty five or thirty.  Thus, do you not agree that it would be reckless to place guns in the hands of children?  Also would it not be reckless and dangerous on college campuses?” Rep. Frazier asked.



“You have to be twenty one to carry a gun…  as far as the frontal lobe goes, I have no clue,”  Meadows said.



Georgia Carry, a guns-rights organization, is one of the major supporters of the bill.  John Monroe, an attorney and vice-president of Georgia Carry, helped guide the Committee with changes on the bill after the hearing.  



“This is an election year and I think this bill will pass.  I think this is purely pandering to a minority of constituents who want this right [to carry guns everywhere],” Rep. Waites told APN.



“Unfortunately, we have a large population of people who are mentally ill and are unstable who have concealed weapon permits.  We have a large number of students who are young and immature,” Waites said.



“I respect the author’s intent… I don’t think he understands the unintended consequences that will come about due to this bill,” Waites told APN.



“The United States has more weapons and firearms than any country in the world.  Yet, we have more violence than any country in the world.  So when people say that more guns will make us safer, it’s almost an oxymoron, it’s a ridiculous statement.  They clearly don’t make us safer.  Other countries that have no guns don’t have the violence and murders that we have,” Waites explained to APN.



“Nine million Georgians are counting on us to make very serious decisions.  I felt that we failed Georgia and let down our children,” Rep. Waites said.




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