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April 24, 2014

Three States, Three Governors, Three Gun Laws

Georgia, Tennessee and Arizona all deal with the Second Amendment.

States are still where most of the action is on gun laws, as recent events have proven once again. Bills in Georgia, Tennessee and Arizona have met one fate or another, for good or ill for Second Amendment rights.

First the good news. In Georgia, Republican Gov. Nathan Deal on Wednesday signed into law the “Safe Carry Protection Act.” Critics labeled it the “guns everywhere” bill, while the National Rifle Association calls it “the most comprehensive pro-gun reform legislation introduced in recent history.” The law, effective July 1, does indeed remove some old and unnecessary restrictions on gun rights. As Deal said, “Our state has some of the best protections for gun owners in the United States. And today we strengthen those rights protected by our nation’s most revered founding document.”

The bill permits licensed gun owners, either Georgia residents or visitors from 28 states with which Georgia shares reciprocity, to bring firearms into bars and some government buildings if no security measures are in place. Furthermore, school districts are empowered to decide on allowing armed employees, while places of worship can likewise opt to allow the carrying of firearms.

The Georgia Municipal Association, which represents the state’s 538 cities, sought a veto, saying, “Local elected officials are responsible for securing and maintaining public safety, and insurance coverage, in buildings owned and operated by the city. Therefore, they should have the authority to make a decision about whether to allow weapons in such buildings.” If they don’t have metal detectors or other security checkpoints, they have effectively made their decision because a sign won’t stop a bad guy with a gun.

Which brings us to Tennessee, where Republican Bill Haslam recently expressed “major concerns” about a bill that would preempt city ordinances regarding carrying firearms in public parks. In 2009, the legislature passed a law expanding protection for Second Amendment rights but gave cities and counties the option of banning firearms in public parks. Unfortunately, the four major cities in Tennessee, though plagued with urban plantation gangs, opted to ban firearms in parks. If Haslam is inclined to veto the latest bill, he may have to wait for a bill. Though the state Senate approved it in February, the House Finance Subcommittee placed it “behind the budget,” which means it won’t be considered until after the state budget near the end of this year’s term.

Finally, in Arizona, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer did veto a pro-gun bill. It would have amended current preemption law to impose penalties on city officials who prosecute gun owners for violating ordinances out of line with state law. She said citizens can already sue over laws they consider unjust. Small comfort.

Brewer also vetoed a bill similar to Georgia’s that would allow licensed carry in government buildings that have no security measures. Or, put another way, the bill would have required that “gun free” government buildings actually take steps beyond hoping people obey a sign to ensure that no one is armed upon entering.

“I am a strong proponent of the Second Amendment, and I have signed into law numerous pieces of legislation to advance and protect gun rights,” Brewer wrote. “However, I cannot support this measure in its proposed form.” Her given reason is that it would cost cities money to actually secure their buildings. Evidently she’d rather live with the illusion that a sign is security enough.

Are there places where guns shouldn’t be allowed? Sure, but, again, it takes more than a sign to disarm anyone – unless the objective is to disarm only the people who obey laws. We’re glad to see the Second Amendment thrive in Georgia, but we’re troubled by the roadblocks that Republicans have set up in Tennessee and Arizona.

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