Georgia lawmakers pass sweeping gun bill

The fate of a sweeping expansion to Georgia’s gun laws, the subject of much debate and consternation over the course of the past two legislative sessions, was decided in the final hour of the 2014 session late Thursday.

House Bill 60 received final passage by a vote of 112-58 and now goes to Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk. The approval came despite national efforts by opponents to defeat what they dubbed the “guns everywhere” bill.

Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, the main sponsor of the House’s effort on gun legislation, said it’s been a “long and winding road.”

“The House has finally come along for Georgia’s gun owners,” said Sen. Bill Heath, R-Bremen.

As lawmakers negotiated behind the scenes, there appeared to be two sticking points: whether to force churches to allow weapons holders to carry guns into houses of worship and whether Georgia will legalize silencers, known technically as suppressors.

The Senate wanted to legalize silencers but ban guns from churches unless specifically authorized; the House wanted to continue to ban silencers but require churches to “opt out” of allowing weapons.

The final version would legalize the use of silencers for hunting and says guns remain banned in houses of worship unless church leaders allow them.

Earlier Thursday, House Republicans made a late, and quickly unsuccessful, charge to also legalize the carrying of guns on college campuses — a controversial measure that assured the defeat of a similar gun bill last year.

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