On Wednesday, the governor of Georgia – the southern U.S. state, not the Eastern European republic – signed a new law that is tantamount to signing death warrants on thousands – if not tens of thousands – of his states' citizens. Or at least that's what the anti-rights crowd and their friends in the lamestream media would have you believe based on the screeching headlines and breathless stories.
OK, maybe they weren't quite that bad, but the headlines used terms like "controversial," "unprecedented," "sweeping," and "guns everywhere" to describe the new law, which actually brings the Peach State's gun carry regulations closer into line with the vast majority of other states. In the stories themselves, there were almost always comments and quotes from professional anti-rights advocates like Mark (Mr. Gabby Giffords) Kelly, decrying the "irresponsible" nature of the law and insinuating that some dire consequences will inevitably result. The Mike Bloomberg subsidiary, Moms Demand Action, called it "a very, very dangerous kill bill."
What the bill actually does is ease blanket bans on carry of firearms in houses of worship (allowing each church, synagogue, etc. to make their own decisions on the matter), in certain government buildings that don't have controlled entry with metal detectors, etc. to enforce a gun ban, and in bars and taverns. It also gives school districts the option of authorizing some staff members to legally carry on school grounds, and provides a specific mechanism for someone who inadvertently carries a gun into the security area of an airport to legally backpedal and leave the area prior to going through the checkpoint. In addition, it makes some adjustments to who can and can't receive a license to carry.
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The worried hand-wringing is typical whenever some state liberalizes their gun laws. The anti-rights folks always paint a picture of doom and gloom and blood in the streets, but their warnings never come true, and the media almost never report that fact. The hoplophobes insinuate the dangerous and scary nature of the laws by conjuring up images of drunken hooligans opening fire across crowded dance floors, or suggesting that terrorists will be more likely to try and smuggle guns onto planes if they can – with a license – legally get the guns closer to the checkpoint.
Of course, these scare tactics don't comport with real-world experience. In real life, prohibitions on licensed firearms carry in bars and churches are the exception, not the rule; few states actually ban these activities, and if they do, there is nothing to keep thugs, criminals and terrorists from ignoring the bans. Meanwhile, licensed carriers try to obey the laws and are sometimes punished for it – for instance when a rushed traveler starts pulling things from his pockets at the airport checkpoint and suddenly realizes that the gun that's always on his belt is still on his belt.
Under existing Georgia law, anyone wishing to legally carry a handgun in public must have a Georgia Weapons License. To get the license, individuals must apply at their local Probate Court, submit fingerprints and pass three different background checks – both state and federal – to ensure that they have nothing in their history to preclude them from being issued a Weapons License. The judge issuing the license has access to the individual's mental health and other private records. People who submit to and pass these sorts of rigorous investigations are not generally the sort of people who irresponsibly consume alcohol while carrying, or get into fights in bars – or anywhere else. And the evidence in Georgia and dozens of other states bears this out. Concealed carry licensees are among the most law-abiding and responsible members of society. Some studies indicate that the crime rate among people licensed to carry concealed firearms is lower than that of sworn police officers. Shooting histories show that licensed civilians are also more judicious and more accurate when involved in a shooting incident. They are significantly less likely to hit a bystander, more likely to hit the bad guy, and typically fire far fewer shots than do police. (Of course there are other factors that play into those statistics, but they are still significant.)
The focus of laws should always be on actual good and real harm, not supposed good and imagined harm, and not irrational fears and mistrust. Georgia lawmakers and Gov. Deal applied a little common sense to what were unreasonable restrictions. They recognized specific problems – such as innocent gun licensees being prosecuted for inadvertent actions at airports and school districts unable to effectively protect the children in their care – and they provided some rational solutions for those problems. They also recognized that there were "solutions" on the books to "problems" that didn't really exist – like the "problem" of licensed people carrying guns in churches and bars – so they removed those false "solutions" and dramatically reduced complications for people who choose to routinely and responsibly carry.
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The end result is an expansion of liberty and a repeal of irrational and harmful restrictions on individual rights. These were a few small steps in the right direction, and after the laws go into effect, and no negative consequences materialize, perhaps other states will follow Georgia's lead and we'll see more reasonable, responsible actions like this in the future.
Media wishing to interview Jeff Knox, please contact [email protected].