I would guess that the hoopla over Georgia’s new gun law has just begun. Gov. Nathan Deal signed the law recently and it goes into effect on July 1. Proponents are applauding while critics are still shaking their heads in disbelief.
The National Rifle Association, our watchdog for gun possession and for gun safety, says this is “the most comprehensive pro-gun bill in state history.” Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords calls the bill “extreme.”
Felons believe that they can use this bill as a “stand your ground” defense. Others have spoken out saying the bill is reckless and dangerous and that it tends to promote a gun culture.
A housewife speaking out on television just the other day gave an example of why the bill is not embraced by all freedom lovers. The lady took her young son to play with other children in the park. They were met by a man carrying a gun and he wanted to show it to the children. He bragged that he had a permit but did not have to show it. The children were alarmed and frightened and asked their parents “is that man going to shoot us?” Play stopped and the kids left the area in fear. The man smiled at his exercise of a constitutional right.
Firearms carried into public parks, bars, churches, school zones, government buildings and even into some courtrooms are bound to raise questions. There are certainly many upright citizens who will exercise their rights with never any incidents arising. However, what of the unstable, the addicts, the criminals and the immature among us? How will they react to rights granted in the new bill? Will they use common sense? I’m betting that most judges will not allow guns to be carried into their courtrooms unless carried by trained, certified, official officers of the court. Public safety in such a setting will be first priority even about liberty.
Police officers will probably find enforcement of this law to be a challenge. There seem to be a lot of ifs, ands and buts in the law. For example, you are allowed to carry your gun in the airport, shops, walkways and parking, but not in screening areas. Who defines screening areas?
You can carry your gun into a government building if there are no security officers on duty. How do you make this determination and what do you do with your weapon if you find there is a security officer working where you did not expect him to be?
Now you can tote your favorite pistol to church. We are reminded that Alberta King was shot by a deranged individual in the Ebenezer Baptist sanctuary. How, if something like this happens and everyone in church attendance is “packing heat,” we might experience a major shootout right there in God’s house! It used to be true that when folks went to church they were looking for “peace.” Now they will also be looking over their shoulders for “piece” (as in a gun). Without proof of a crime, police cannot go around checking gun permits.
Public safety is particularly important in bars and schools. Police are working hard to keep guns out of schools not to bring more guns into places of learning.
God-fearing, peace-loving, upholders of the Constitution and lovers of liberty will probably have no problem with Georgia’s new gun law. What will keep the debate going about whether it is good law/bad law or not will be incidents caused by the unstable, immature, addicted and emotionally disturbed among us.
Jack Simpson is a former educator, a veteran, an author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.