Moderated by Tom Sabulis
Georgia has some of the least restrictive gun laws in the nation, particularly when it comes to keeping firearms away from children. Today, we hear from gun owners with different views: An Atlanta attorney writes that state legislators are more interested in expanding gun rights than protecting people, while a local real estate agent says the U.S. Senate’s background-checks bill was too vague for him.
Commenting is open below.
By Halsey G. Knapp Jr.
It is not over. Just weeks ago, Americans were encouraged to see a national consensus emerging that enforceable, uniform background checks on all gun purchases, whether from retail stores or gun shows, would become a reality. Had the old mantra, “Guns don’t kill people, people do,” lost its sway? Were we finally facing the reality that too often, irresponsible people with guns kill other, innocent people?
One U.S. Senate filibuster later, our voices were drowned out, and the prospect of a national uniform approach to background checks seemingly evaporated.
State laws remain inadequate substitutes for national legislation. Based on the actions of the last legislative session, Georgia’s lawmakers are more interested in expanding gun rights than in protecting those at the other end of the barrel. For example, when Georgia state Sen. Emanuel Jones sponsored SB 161 which, among other things, would have banned the licensing of firearms to all people with mental disabilities regardless of their form of treatment, it went nowhere. Under existing law, only in-patient, hospitalized people with mental illnesses are barred from gun ownership. Given that outpatient alternatives and drugs are the predominant form of treatment for mental illness today, Georgians are unknowingly at risk due to this huge gap in protection.
Now let’s compare the Gold Dome’s treatment of SB 161 to its treatment of HB 981. Despite the absence of any significant outcry for the need to carry concealed weapons into public places, HB 981, among other things, authorized the carrying of concealed weapons in churches, on campuses and in courts, if those institutions so elected. Encouraging people to carry weapons into group settings is risky with no meaningful benefit that I could see. Yet, here comes HB 981, in part, to allow each side of the gun rights issue to identify who were supporters and opposition of expanding gun rights and thus targets for funding and future election opposition.
Such expansions should be used more sparingly, yet HB 981 only died on the last day of the session.
As a gun owner, I find current laws allow me to use my guns in a responsible way without undue restriction. Personal accountability for safe practices and sound processes have always been for me a non-negotiable requirement of gun ownership. More gun rights such as HB 981 pushes the pendulum too far towards risky, irresponsible gun behavior.
Fortunately, mandatory background check legislation is still alive in Congress, according to one of its sponsors, Sen. Joe Manchin. The filibusterers are nowhere listed, as they shamelessly derailed the bill without an open floor debate. It is time to hold the filibusterers accountable. We need to continue to push for universal and enforceable background checks, a simple, commonsense approach to reduce violence by persons who are irresponsible or incompetent to handle such weapons. For one thing is certain: Silence and complacency kills.
Halsey G. Knapp Jr. is an Atlanta attorney and gun owner.
By Paul Rice
There has been much debate regarding guns. Gun control advocates often cite the need for new laws to protect our children. What we need to do is to protect everyone — including children. Debate is a good thing, but it should be honest debate. The failed U.S. Senate Bill 649 did not have honest debate. Support was generated because it focused on publicizing SB 649 as “harmless, mild-measure” registration/background checks.
Some people charged that the National Rifle Association (NRA) was opposed to background checks, thus jeopardizing our children’s safety. Not so. NRA members like me for years have agreed to background checks when we applied for our concealed weapon permits.
SB 649’s provisions went beyond registration and background checks, which was a reason that I opposed the bill. It contained a provision allowing the U.S. attorney general to add further regulations. What these regulations could cover was vague, and that was a concern.
SB 649 also provided that if, for example, I gave my grandson a firearm, and years later could not prove that the gun transfer was a legal “free” gift, I could be convicted of a crime and sentenced to 15 years in prison — 25 years if the government elected to tack on a “RICO” provision to really scare me.
I am continually amazed at how many people have forgotten the history of how government has passed laws meting out extreme punishments for what had been lawful common activity by their ancestors.
Unfortunately, if I am confronted in a life-or-death situation — whether it involves a gun or otherwise — I will be my own “first responder.” I will probably be my only responder until the situation is resolved. It would be nice if I could use my cell phone and dial 911 in time, but that is unlikely.
Celebrities, politicians and other gun control proponents are quick to count numbers killed by a gun, but rarely do they report on lives saved because citizens have effective means to protect themselves. Actions, such as the manner in which SB 649 was presented, cause me to be suspicious of any governmental alteration of the Second Amendment.
If Congress has the authority to modify the Second Amendment simply by passing a law, how far can it go to also abridge freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, and freedom to petition the government? It is important to fight for our constitutional rights. The Second Amendment may not be precious to you, but it is only a matter of time before someone tries to take away rights that are precious to you.
Paul Rice is a Covington real estate agent and gun owner.