Workers put finishing touches on the convention floor at the Georgia World Congress Center for the 146th NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits in Atlanta, which begins Thursday and continues through Sunday. (HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM)

Opinion: Georgia welcomes NRA, stands with its ideals

As Americans across the country celebrate a rebirth of freedom, it is an honor to welcome the members of the National Rifle Association to Atlanta for their 146th annual celebration of our Second Amendment freedoms.

The five million members of the NRA are dedicated to promoting, preserving, and protecting our freedom. All across the country, lawmakers at every level of government — from state houses to the halls of Congress – are passing new laws giving law-abiding citizens greater ability to protect and defend themselves.

In Congress, lawmakers are moving forward with a bill that would put an end to the confusing patchwork of concealed carry laws across the country. Currently concealed carry permit holders are in constant jeopardy of running afoul of another state’s laws when they travel with their firearm for self-protection. The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 would require states to recognize the concealed carry permits of other states, similar to how marriage licenses are recognized. We are a very mobile society and threats to our personal safety don’t end at the state line.

While awaiting reform at the federal level, we in Georgia are going ahead and expanding state-to-state recognition agreements. Earlier this month here in Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law a measure recognizing the concealed carry permits of Virginians who travel to Georgia. Georgia now recognizes concealed carry permits from 32 states. Georgia lawmakers have sent two other pro-Second Amendment bills to Gov. Deal, including House Bill 280 that would give law-abiding, concealed carry permit holders the ability protect themselves on our state college campuses.

Twelve states now have Constitutional Carry laws and many more states are considering it. Constitutional Carry, or permit-less carry, simply allows a person who is otherwise legally able to possess and carry a firearm to do so in a discreet, concealed manner. Many states allow law-abiding gun owners to openly carry a handgun without a government permit. Constitutional Carry gives them the flexibility to put a coat or jacket on over their gun, or place it in a purse for convenience.

For the first time since Ronald Reagan, a sitting U.S. President will address the National Rifle Association’s Annual Meeting. It is a tremendous honor for Atlanta to welcome Donald Trump to our city. President Trump will speak at the NRA Institute for Legislative Action Leadership Forum on Friday, along with Wayne LaPierre and NRA chief political strategist Chris W. Cox. They will be joined by many federal, state and local elected officials.

I personally want to welcome the 70,000 visitors expected for the NRA’s Annual Meeting. This is a time for all of us to come together to celebrate our nation’s rebirth of freedom. People will be coming from every city, state and hamlet in the United States. They will come with one anthem, “We are the NRA!”.

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State Rep. Vernon Jones represents House District 91.