Lawmakers pitch gun plans; leadership is cautious

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 26, 2013 at 3:42 pm •  Published: January 26, 2013
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ATLANTA (AP) — There's been a lot of talk about gun laws since a shooter killed 20 children at a Connecticut elementary school. So far in the Georgia Capitol, there's been little action and the power players who matter most have expressed no desire to make major changes in either direction to Georgia weapons laws.

Rank-and-file Republicans have introduced varying bills that would expand the right to carry weapons in the already gun-friendly state, and some of the House's most conservative members want to limit any federal weapons restrictions that could come out of Congress. Another proposal would let local school officials choose administrators who could carry weapons on campus, with training.

Some Democrats have called for new gun restrictions, but they haven't offered specifics and their minority status in the General Assembly gives them little sway.

Republican Gov. Nathan Deal hasn't included any gun-related bills in his priorities for the session that began Jan. 14. His lieutenants are quick to emphasize that the governor won't back, much less sign, any new gun restrictions or regulations. They otherwise suggest that he is content with the status quo, and instead turn questions toward mental health.

"He wants to make sure that administratively at the state level we are taking proper precautions when it comes to purchases by individuals with mental illness," Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said.

Immediately after the Newtown shootings, Robinson said the governor took action on three fronts: He asked state education authorities to review school safety procedures, directed state emergency management authorities to review emergency response protocol and ordered an assessment of the state's infrastructure for mental health care.

House Speaker David Ralston, a Blue Ridge Republican and Deal ally, echoed the governor's sentiments. "I don't expect that the Georgia House will adopt a measure, if any is adopted at all, that will be restrictive of the rights of Georgians to own and bear arms," he said. "I think it's probably more appropriate that we step back, catch our breath, and look at the broader picture. I think this might be an appropriate time, for example to have a conversation about mental illness and how we treat mental illness."

Deal has not announced any findings or new policies resulting from his December directives. His proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 does not include new initiatives related to mental health.

Current law puts Georgia among the least restrictive states for gun possession, clearly exceeded only by the handful of "open-carry" states that don't require permits at all. Here, a license is required to carry a concealed handgun, and there are a handful of limitations on where an owner can carry a gun. They include churches, schools and government buildings, including the Capitol where the General Assembly convenes. Background checks for firearm purchases at gun shows are not required. There are no state laws relating to rapid-fire weapons — those sometimes called "assault weapons" — or high-capacity magazines.



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