Georgia’s new gun rules kicked in Tuesday, allowing residents to carry firearms into bars, nightclubs, classrooms and government buildings in a measure slammed by anti-weapon activists as a “dangerous kill bill.”
The law, which critics are calling the “guns everywhere” law, is considered one of the most extreme pro-gun bills in the country. Under its provisions, residents with a proper gun permit will be allowed to carry guns at a number of previously off-limits places.
The carry laws even extend to allowing people to cross Transportation Security Administration (TSA) airport checkpoints with a gun.
TSA spokesman Ross Feinstein told CNN it wasn't clear how the law might affect its agents at Georgia airports, particularly Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International, the world’s busiest airport.
And despite shootings in areas of worship, religious leaders will be allowed to opt in to let people take guns into churches under the law.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed the Safe Carry Protection Act after the state’s Republican-controlled General Assembly overwhelmingly passed the measure on the last day of the legislative session. The law reduces the penalty against a permit holder caught with a gun on a college campus to a fine instead of a misdemeanor.
Any licensed gun owner from Georgia and visitors from 28 other states may carry a gun into bars — as long as they do not consume alcohol — and into government offices that don’t have metal detectors or security guards screening visitors. School districts may appoint staff members to carry a weapon.
For the first time, felons will be allowed to invoke the controversial “stand your ground” defense in the state. Under the defense, if people feel their life is threatened, they do not have the obligation to retreat to safety and may use deadly force.
Gun control groups, the state’s police chiefs association and restaurant association, various religious denominations and the TSA opposed the bill. So do most residents in the state. According to polls, more than 70 percent of Georgians opposed the bill.
Similar legislation has popped up in other states, including Missouri, Oklahoma and Tennessee, but the Georgia bill has garnered so much attention because it expands gun-carry rights in multiple areas with a single law.
It has sparked a strong response from pro-control advocates. Americans for Responsible Solutions, an organization founded by former Arizona congresswoman and shooting survivor Gabrielle Giffords, said the law “moves Georgia out of the mainstream” and lobbied against it.
“It’s a very, very dangerous kill bill,” said Lucia McBath, national spokeswoman for the organization. McBath’s 17-year-old son, Jordan Davis, was killed in 2012 in Jacksonville, Florida, after getting in a dispute with 47-year-old Michael Dunn over loud music.
The law has caused confusion among residents, some of whom didn’t know it had passed, and bar owners, many of whom were unsure how to keep guns out of their businesses if they didn’t want them there.
The National Rifle Association, the leading gun rights organization and a powerful political force, called the law the “most comprehensive pro-gun reform legislation introduced in recent history.”
Deal, a Republican, has supported loosening gun restrictions in the state and has an A rating from the NRA. He is seeking re-election on Nov. 4.