Pro and Con: Should Georgia allow concealed weapons at public gatherings?

Yes: Restore gun owner rights and make state law consistent.

By Tim Bearden

The time is now for Georgia’s citizens to be given back their rights as protected by the Second Amendment and the Constitution of Georgia.

Georgians have, since our founding, been allowed under state law to possess and carry firearms. In recent times, more and more restrictions have been placed upon our lawful citizens for many different and various reasons.

Well-intended legislators, responding to single incidents, attempted to fix problems, real and perceived, with a patchwork of conflicting laws and confusion. My proposed House Bill 615 is an attempt to clarify and simplify Georgia law on the issue of individual gun rights, and allow a citizen to finally go to one code section to see clearly where it is illegal to carry a weapon in this state.

My legislation will clarify that lawful adults may possess legal firearms all places where the property owners allow. The Second Amendment and the Georgia Constitution protects our rights against government restrictions, not individual wishes.

Opponents emotionally exclaim that if you allow lawful citizens to possess firearms on public transportation and in establishments where alcohol is served, there will be mass carnage. HB 89, passed in 2008, allows just that and no mass carnage has taken place. Lawful citizens are just that, lawful. We cannot, and will not, continue to strip the rights of law-abiding citizens due to the actions of criminals.

With my proposed changes, it will continue to be illegal for felons, criminals and unlawful citizens to possess firearms anywhere in our state.

But consider what our other states allow by statute, but what is currently illegal in Georgia, according to, Georgia’s voice for gun owners.

California, Oregon, and New Hampshire allow lawful citizens licensed (some states allow non-licensed individuals as long as they carry openly) to possess firearms in the following locations:

● Public buildings (excluding courthouses): 36 states allow, Georgia does not.

● Political demonstrations and rallies: 40 states allow, Georgia does not.

● Places of worship: 45 states allow, Georgia does not.

● Airports: 36 states allow, Georgia does not.

● Sporting and entertaining events: 38 states allow, Georgia does not.

● Bars (not restaurants): 27 states allow, Georgia does not.

● Colleges and universities: 17 states allow, but not Georgia.

The majority of states trust their citizens to carry firearms in many more locations than Georgia. The 24 states that recognize a Georgia firearms license also trust Georgia citizens to carry in the same locations. It is ironic that 24 states trust a Georgia citizen with a firearms license more than Georgia does.

To obtain a license, an individual must go to the county probate judge and submit to fingerprinting and three state and federal background checks performed through the GBI, FBI, and the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

Then the reports must be turned in to the probate judge for viewing before the judge issues the license. A lot of checks are in place to exercise a Constitutional right that “shall not be infringed.”

As one who interprets the Constitution as it was written, I believe any law abiding citizen has the right to carry, but at a minimum a person who has been checked out by federal, state and local authorities should be permitted to carry in Georgia in the same locations where he or she may carry using a Georgia license in New Hampshire.

It is time to stop the hysteria, stop the political posturing and stop the baseless claims of danger lurking and for government to trust its lawful citizens.

State Rep. Tim Bearden (R-Villa Rica) represents House District 68.

No: State leaders bow to gun interests and our children pay the price.

By Jeff Wilburn

If your children are attending a university in Georgia, would you prefer their classmates and teachers be armed with handguns? Or would you prefer that everyone simply have books?

As of July 1, 2008, Georgia lawmakers already increased the areas where guns can be legally carried to include public transportation, state parks and restaurants that serve alcohol.

But now state Sen. Mitch Seabaugh (R-Sharpsburg) and another gun proponent, state Rep. Tim Bearden (R-Villa Rica), have universities and churches directly in their crosshairs. Each is sponsoring a bill which will be considered by the Georgia Senate this month to “clarify” gun restrictions in Georgia.

Apparently they believe the words “clarify” and “expansion” are synonymous, because both bills will allow guns in colleges and churches, which is currently illegal. Left unchecked, these lawmakers will take us back to the wild west days of shootouts at the OK Corral. Their desire is to appease gun manufacturers, whose profits are the root cause of this push, and their lobbyist arm, the NRA, rather than the majority of Georgia citizens.

The company I founded, Samson Systems, sells military aircraft equipment to Lockheed and other aerospace / defense companies in the South.

It may seem odd to be in my line of business and yet take the stance I do. I think guns and other weapons are necessary, but only in the hands of the military and police. Otherwise, senseless killings such as we saw in Kennesaw Tuesday are daily tragedies.

The NRA argues that the more guns, the more safety citizens enjoy, and they have plenty of statistics to support this incomprehensible theory.

Through some online research, I found my own statistics. Seabaugh contends gun license holders are law-abiding citizens and areas such as churches and universities will be safer once guns are legal there.

I couldn’t find any data to prove concealed-carry license holders in Texas reduced crime once similar measures were passed there in 1996, but there’s ample proof they committed a number of crimes. A total of 2,080 crimes were committed by gun license holders in Texas the first three years after the gun carry expansion laws were passed.

And in Florida, an investigation by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel found during the first half of 2006 gun license holders included more than 1,400 individuals who had pleaded guilty or no contest to felonies, 216 persons with outstanding warrants, 128 people with active domestic violence injunctions, and six registered sex offenders. Also, of the 30,694 Americans who died of gunfire in 2005, only 147 were classified as justifiable homicides by private citizens with firearms.

The reason Georgia politicians are pushing gun expansion legislation is because the NRA and a Georgia gun organization,, are focused and unified.

GeorgiaCarry’s Web site states they are “committed to the preservation and expansion of Georgia citizens’ firearms rights” and they are “Georgia’s no-compromise voice for gun owners” (note the words “safety” and “children” are absent from their charter definition).

Conversely, expansion of gun-carry laws in Georgia isn’t even listed on the Web site for Georgians for Gun Safety.

Georgians outraged by the issue of legally carrying guns into college classrooms are the vast majority, but we have to make our voices heard. Let your legislators know you are appalled that something this reprehensible is even being considered. Tell them not to expand gun carry laws in Georgia to include universities and churches.

It’s a difficult time for our college kids. Let’s not add a senseless distraction by allowing guns on campus. Let’s leave law enforcement where it belongs, to the police and security units of our universities.

Jeff Wilburn lives in Marietta.