Deal signs sweeping restoration of Georgia gun rights

The governor of Georgia signed a sweeping restoration of gun rights April 23 that decriminalizes concealed carry in restaurants that serve alcohol, places of worship and government buildings without entrance security.

???For decades now I have staunchly defended our Second Amendment rights as both a legislator and as governor,??? said Gov. Nathan Deal.

???Our nation???s founders put the right to bear arms on par with freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Georgians cherish their Second Amendment rights, and this law embodies those values,??? the governor said.

The new law protects concealed carry permit holders, who have already passed background checks, he said.

???Roughly 500,000 Georgia citizens have a permit of this kind, which is approximately 5 percent of our population,??? he said. ???This law gives added protections to those who have played by the rules ??? and who can protect themselves and others from those who don???t play by the rules.???

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston (R.-Blue Ridge), who hosted the signing ceremony and post-signing barbeque in Ellijay, Ga., along the Coosawattee River, said he was thrilled the Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014 was now law.

???Soon, no law abiding Georgian will ever have to run and hide from a bad guy,??? the speaker said.

Ralston, who is facing Tea Party primary challenger Sam Snider, convinced the governor to travel to his north of Atlanta district for the signing ceremony, along with more than 150 law makers.

The speaker said his district was a place where Georgians cling to their guns and religion.

The push for the bill came from, founded in 2007 by advocates for restoring gun rights in the state, but the group also gave credit to the National Rifle Association.

According to the group???s web site: ???Prior to July 1, 2008, the State of Georgia had many restrictions on where and how a law abiding citizen could carry a firearm. Coupled with a law so vaguely and poorly written that determining where one could legally carry was extremely difficult, many citizens never bothered to obtain a Georgia Firearm License to exercise their rights.???

GCO and NRA working together to pass this bill is a big change from how the two groups have behaved in other legislative fights.

The threat to gun rights from outside forces, such as billionaire and former New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, means gun rights groups need to team up, GCO said. ???We???ve buried the hatchet.???

While the signing, attended by more than 500, had the air of a celebration, GCO said it was not a total victory. As the legislation crawled towards passage, there was significant doubt whose side the governor was on, as his allies in the state Senate worked to gut the bill.

???Was HB60 all we wanted? Of course not!??? the group said. ???But we feel that we got a great bill and this will clear the way for some great improvements in the future.???

One compromise was the provision that gives houses of worship the option of restricting or allowing concealed carry, rather than a flat out lifting of the restrictions.

???Those of you who have been with us for any length of time know, we ask for everything we want and accept what we can get without giving up any of the gains we have made in the past,??? the group said.

???We keep marching down the field and one day, we will get all our rights back. This is the way we lost our rights, one step at a time, and this is the way we will get them back,??? the group said. ???There is always next year.???