ATLANTA — People with a driver's license could carry guns in bars, churches and college campuses under legislation given initial approval Thursday by Georgia lawmakers just ahead of a critical deadline.
The frantic day of voting came on what state lawmakers call "Crossover Day," the 30th day of Georgia's annual 40-day legislative session. Under internal rules, any bills not approved by at least one chamber of the General Assembly by Thursday were at risk of failing for the year. There are some exceptions to the rule.
House Republicans voted 117-56 to approve legislation expanding the places where people can carry guns. The legislation now heads to the state Senate. Under the plan, school administrators could arm their employees, a move that Republican backers say would deter attacks on school. It would also allow people who have received voluntary inpatient care at a mental hospital or substance center to receive a license to carry a weapon. Right now, judges have discretion over whether to issue licenses to those applicants.
Judges would be required to check whether applicants have received involuntary treatment and could refuse to issue licenses in those cases.
"... Until our government can unconditionally ensure our safety, I will fight for your right and my right to protect ourselves and our family," said Rep. Larry O'Neal, R-Bonaire, the House majority leader. "And as long as bad guys have guns, I'll fight for good guys to have guns."
Democrats urged lawmakers to reject the bill, referring to recent massacres in Colorado and Connecticut.
"I have a hard time understanding why we are responding to a series of tragedies by expanding the likelihood of danger," said Rep. Karla Drenner, D-Avondale Estates. "....Carrying a gun makes one more likely to be shot. Policy should be based on facts, not on rhetoric or assumption."