By Alice Johnson
A few months ago, Georgia made it legal for people with permits to carry firearms in a concealed manner into state parks and recreational areas, onto public transportation and into restaurants that serve alcohol.
The General Assembly passed these very serious public safety provisions even though no committee ever held a meeting about them. There was no scrutiny by any professional law enforcement personnel or restaurant owners, never any opportunity for public comment.
The language was added in a conference committee on the last day of the session -- a committee that met without posting any notices, in a room in the basement of the Capitol, without openness or oversight. And 60 percent of legislators voted for it two hours before the session ended on the most hectic and chaotic day, as the clock wound toward midnight and the end of the General Assembly for another year.
Currently, the Senate Firearms Law Study Committee is preparing to remove what is left of the “public gathering” section that the new law decimated -- making it possible for firearms to be carried in churches, in schools, on college campuses and in government-owned buildings. Their plan is to allow carrying concealed handguns anywhere, at any time, by anyone who can pass a fingerprint background check and pay the $15 application fee the state requires.
Does it make sense to do these things? Is there a public safety imperative that justifies these changes in the law? Can we trust a permit holder to shoot straight, know safety rules and practice emotional good judgment when no training is required to get a permit? Why do these kinds of crazy bills get passed?