Will Georgia allow guns in churches, bars, and college classrooms?

HB 512 comes before the House on “Crossover Day”

It’s the so-called Crossover Day at the state capitol, the thirtieth day of the forty-day General Assembly and the day by which bills must pass out of at least one chamber of the legislature into the other in order to be enacted during that year’s session.

This is a “day” that often goes long into the evening as lawmakers scrounge for precious votes to pass their pet legislation by the midnight deadline. And it tends to be a day when you see intense debates, vigorous arm-twisting and frayed nerves over hot-potato bills that can be delayed no longer by the House and Senate leadership.

Getting most of the attention today is House Bill 512, the confoundingly titled “Safe Carry Protection Act,” which would:

  • allow folks to carry concealed handguns into churches and bars without needing permission from the property owners

  • allow local school boards to arm teachers and school officials

  • allow students in public colleges with legally obtained shootin’ irons to bring them to class, the campus library or lunch hall

While that last measure could do wonders to improve college cuisine, the bill is emblematic of the ideological divide that exists with many highly politicized issues—where the Obama administration and others see the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and similar massacres as cause for restricting the easy availability of guns, Second Amendment absolutists claim that true safety comes from everyone packing heat.

Not that the Republican lawmakers who end up supporting HB 512 are necessarily true believers. Many are likely worried that a vote against the powerful gun lobby would put a figurative (?) target on their back come the next primary season. There’s even a fairly new term for what has long been an occupational hazard in politics: getting “primaried.” Interestingly, I’ve only heard it in conjunction with GOP incumbents who are worried that too much compromise or thoughtful governing will put them in danger of losing primary votes from the party’s fringe-y base.

UPDATE: “Your rights have been chipped away for a very long time,” warned House Rules Chairman John Meadows, R-Calhoun, during the hour-long debate which ended moments ago. At times, he almost seemed to be apologizing to colleagues who might be frustrated that the bill doesn’t go far enough in lifting restrictions on carrying guns.

Meadows also poo-pooed the concern that Rep. Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta, raised over the fact that every member of the state Board of Regents and Chancellor Hank Huckaby all vocally opposed the bill and argued that public campuses were likely to be less safe if students were allowed to tote guns to class.

“The regents and the chancellor are not elected,” said Meadows. “The tail does not wag the dog.”

O-kay, then! Meadows’ logic apparently resonated with the chamber. On a vote of 117-56, the gun bill easily passed the House.