Speaker David Ralston casts doubt on bill to allow concealed firearms without permit

House Speaker David Ralston in a 2018 file. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

House Speaker David Ralston in a 2018 file. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

House Speaker David Ralston on Wednesday expressed opposition to legislation that would allow Georgians to carry concealed firearms without a permit.

"I don't know what the appetite's going to be for that kind of legislation in the House. I'm going to take a very, very cautious view," Ralston said during an interview on GPB's "Political Rewind."

State Rep. Matt Gurtler, R-Tiger, has already filed House Bill 2, which would remove those restrictions on concealed weaponry. Ralston expressed his doubts in the context of a House Republican caucus that lost 11 members in November – many of them in metro Atlanta. The speaker said he had a duty to protect GOP members who may be threatened again in 2020.

“I think I do have some responsibility there and I take it very seriously. I think Georgians expect us to govern in a very responsible way and in a very productive way,” Ralston said.

The speaker pointed to legislation passed by his House and into law that expanded the number of public places that permitted concealed weaponry can be carried, including on public university campuses. Ralston said that, based on conversations with his Fannin County-based district in north Georgia, he saw no need for permitless carry.

“I probably have more gun racks in the back of pick-up trucks in my county than any other county in Georgia. This is not a county that’s exactly ready to disarm,” Ralston said. “I have had two people in my 30 plus years here – I’ve had two individuals mention to me that they thought they ought to be able to carry without a permit.

“Frankly, I wonder how much of this issue is being ginned up by an extreme, fringe, special interest group that is looking, obviously, to raise funds. We’ve had one bill dropped in the House, but I’ve had many, many House members express to me their concern that we’ll even take it up.”

Opposition to HB 2 is made easier by the fact that Gurtler, its author, is an anti-government rebel within his own party who votes “no” more than any other legislator. He was roundly criticized during a November special session for casting the lone vote against millions of dollars in south Georgia relief for in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.

Ralston and other House GOP leaders contributed to Gurtler's opponent in last year's May primary.

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