Georgia speaker says House will not consider any type of gun ban

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston made clear Friday that legislation calling for an all-out state ban on “assault weapons” will not be considered on his watch.

“As long as I am speaker of this House, I will not use any of our valuable time taking away the constitutional rights of our citizens,” Ralston, a Republican from Blue Ridge, told reporters at an impromptu news conference, marking the end of the first five days of the 40-day legislative session.

The speaker’s statement could effectively kill the proposed ban that was introduced this week. The bill cannot become law without passing both the House and Senate.

Georgia is generally viewed as having gun-friendly laws, and state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, said up front that she realized her legislation, House Bill 731, would be controversial.

It calls for a ban on the sale, possession and distribution of AK-47s and similar weapons, as well large-capacity magazines and armor-piercing bullets.

But Oliver said she was compelled to act after recent mass shootings and gun violence. She said she also was encouraged by a recent poll that found 57 percent of people favor a ban on weapons like those in her bill.

During a press conference Thursday, Oliver said seven states have banned such weapons and Georgia should join them. A few dozen local faith and community leaders who support the proposed ban joined her at the news conference.

Ralston said Oliver’s press conference “is about as much energy and time as you will see utilized” on the topic of a ban.

“In the wake of (the mass shootings in) Paris and San Bernadino, (I can’t see) how someone believes that the solutions to some of these problems are to disarm law-abiding Georgians and Americans,” the speaker said.

Oliver said her bill would not affect the type of guns Georgians use for personal protection or hunting.

But Ralston said it addresses “taking the right to possess and bear arms.”

“It’s not something we’re going to deal with in the House,” he said.

Contacted Friday afternoon, Oliver said: “The speaker and I are old friends and colleagues, with different constituencies, and he is in charge.”

She said she remains “hopeful that we can have a real discussion at some point soon about the balancing of gun rights and gun control, and one good place to start is with semi-assault weapons, high-powered magazines and metal-piercing bullets.”

“Today, Georgians are more vulnerable to being killed by a gun than dying in an automobile accident,” Oliver said. “Why can we only talk about car safety and not gun safety?”

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