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Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords calls just-passed Georgia legislation "the most extreme gun bill in America." That is a bit of stretch given that Wyoming, Arizona, Vermont, Arkansas and Alaska require no permit for any resident who chooses to carry a concealed firearm. But if, or rather when, Gov. Nathan Deal signs HB 60 passed just before the Georgia legislature adjourned for the year this week, the Peach State will definitely have one of the most relaxed environments for gun-toters in the nation.

When all the adjusting and reconciling between measures in the Georgia House and Senate had been achieved and the bill finally passed, cheers went up from gun rights advocates inside and outside the legislature. The National Rifle Association, which lobbied heavily for an even tougher version of the law, called it “a historic victory for the Second Amendment.” The association wasn't alone:

"For the past two years we've worked hard to improve the Second Amendment rights of Georgians," said Republican Representative Rick Jasperse, the House lead sponsor. "It has been a long and winding road."
The legislation will, under certain circumstances, allow permit-holders to take their firearms into restaurants, churches, bars, schools, libraries, youth centers, sporting arenas and airports. Not, however, into the state capitol where lawmakers drafted the bill loosening the reins on guns. The law will also make it easier to obtain and keep permits. If you "forget" and leave your pistol in your carry-on luggage while going through airport security, state penalties for taking a gun where it's not allowed can now be waived. The bill prohibits police from stopping someone solely to ask if they are carrying a firearm and have a permit for it, a search backers say is barred by the Fourth Amendment.

For some purposes, hunters will be permitted to use sound suppressors on their weapons.

The law expands stand-your-ground provisions. Critics say this change will allow a convicted felon to claim a stand-your-ground defense. Supporters say this isn't the case because felons are permanently barred, by federal law, from legally possessing firearms. That conundrum probably is going to be one for the courts to sort out.

There's more about this law below the fold.

The law runs roughshod over local jurisdictions, barring them from imposing gun restrictions that the legislature has not, including zoning that affects firearms dealers:

Except as provided in subsection (c) of this Code section, no county or municipal corporation, by zoning or by ordinance, or resolution, or other enactment, nor any agency, board, department, commission, or authority of this state, other than the General Assembly, by rule or regulation shall regulate in any manner:
(A) Gun shows;
(B) The possession, ownership, transport, carrying, transfer, sale, purchase, licensing, or registration of firearms or other weapons or components of firearms or other weapons;
(C) Firearms dealers or dealers of other weapons firearms dealers; or
(D) Dealers in firearms [or] components of firearms or other weapons.
The bill had vocal opponents. Besides the obvious gun-restriction advocacy groups, Georgia's police chiefs association, the state restaurant association, federal Transportation Security Administration that handles airport security, the Episcopal and Catholic churches, and, according to several polls, the majority of Georgians were in opposition at least to some provisions.

But in the legislature it was a different story. There, even Gov. Deal's Democratic opponent in the upcoming election, state Sen. Jason Carter, President Jimmy Carter’s grandson, voted for the bill.

Although originally called the "guns everywhere" law by critics, the lawmakers did tone it down a bit to guns almost everywhere. Bar owners can post a sign at the door telling patrons not to bring guns inside. Where guns in bars are permitted, the carrier isn't supposed to drink alcohol. But how that will be enforced has not been satisfactorily explained. A church can allow firearms in the pews, but each congregation must affirmatively "opt in" to approve their presence. Administrators and local boards can choose to allow or ban the carrying of guns on school grounds by teachers and other employees. But the lawmakers decided, under considerable pressure, not to allow guns on college campuses, something seven other states, including Colorado and Mississippi, have chosen to permit.

As for Georgia's being the most extreme gun bill in the nation, in the past 12 months, 21 states have expanded the rights of gun owners. Three allow guns in churches, two on college campuses, four in bars and eight in schools.

Reaction from critics to passage of the Georgia bill was mostly subdued:

"I do think they've overreached," said Laura Cutilletta, senior staff attorney at the San Francisco-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The Georgia bill, she said, is "so extreme and people do have such a strong reaction to it. I don't think over all it's a victory for them."
Maybe. Maybe not. There's no sugarcoating the fact that passage of the bill marks another defeat for gun-restriction advocates. Since the Sandy Hook elementary school slaughter of first-graders nearly 16 months ago, those advocates—veteran activists or ones spurred into action by that horror—have managed to push several mostly modest new restrictions on guns in some states. But nearly twice as many laws loosening the rules have passed, according to a survey by The New York Times. This has occurred primarily in Southern and Western states.

But Ohio and some other states are now pondering similar laws.

In fact, the NRA and gun groups that consider it a sell-out organization have been on an extended run of victories, with relatively few losses for nearly three decades. No major federal gun law has passed since 1994, and that one, a ban on semi-automatic assault rifles, expired a decade ago.

In 1986, only seven states had laws on the books making it easy to acquire a permit to carry a concealed firearm. Vermont had no permit requirement. Today, all but five states make it relatively easy and five require no permit. Only eight states today ban semi-auto assault rifles. Lobbyists are continuing to chip away at remaining restrictions, state by state.

After the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater killings in July 2012 and Connecticut's Sandy Hook killings in December that year, expectations grew that the right-wing NRA's efforts could finally be buried. That sense was boosted by the outrageous public comments of Wayne LaPierre, the association's executive vice president and leading spokesman. Mayor Michael Bloomberg poured more money into the group he co-founded in 2006, Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, both of them gun-owners, founded Americans for Responsible Solutions, a moderate organization focusing on gun restrictions with broad appeal such as the universal background check.

But two miscalculations got in the way.

In the case of new federal legislation, despite warnings that her proposal would be a very tough sell at best, Sen. Dianne Feinstein was first out of the gate with a new proposal for an assault weapons ban. That shifted discussion away from universal background checks for gun-buyers, something 80-90 percent of Americans support, according to a vast array of polls on the matter. And her move contributed, however tendentiously, to the they're-coming-to-take-all-your-guns-away claims of the NRA and like-minded groups.

Then, too, the differences in intensity and persistence of gun-restriction advocates versus gun-rights advocates got in the way of tighter rules. As Paul M. Barrett writes:

As if we needed a fresh demonstration of this phenomenon, the gun-rights lobby currently enjoys a fundamental edge in the debate about regulating firearms. In an era of falling crime rates, liberal enthusiasm for gun control simply doesn’t pack much political punch outside certain blue-state environments. Yes, people get riled up, understandably, by mass shootings at schools or movie theaters. Over and over, we’ve seen those emotions fade quickly, giving way to a more sustained counter-reaction from the pro-gun side. The NRA has skillfully responded to calls for stricter gun control by portraying them as evidence that liberals’ real agenda is confiscating firearms—all firearms.

A cadre of highly motivated, well organized pro-gun voters believe the NRA scare tactics and rally behind ever-more-aggressive measures to expand gun rights.

For gun-restriction advocates, it's time for a new strategy.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Wed Mar 26, 2014 at 12:32 PM PDT.

Also republished by Shut Down the NRA, Kos Georgia, Firearms Law and Policy, Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment (RASA), and Daily Kos.

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