Major gun bill passes Georgia Senate

A sweeping gun bill passed the Georgia Senate late Tuesday, but it’s not the one the House wanted.

The changes to House Bill 60 made on the Senate floor seemed aimed at pulling the House into a conference committee, in which three members from each chamber will try to negotiate a final compromise before this year’s legislative session ends Thursday.

The bill, as changed, would allow guns in churches but make the provision an “opt in” — meaning church leaders don’t have to act unless they want to allow guns in churches. Original wording by the House would have lifted the state’s ban of guns in churches unilaterally unless leaders vote to prohibit them on individual church properties.

According to language added by the Senate, someone caught with a gun in a church that didn’t allow it would face the equivalent of a jaywalking ticket: a misdemeanor and a $100 fine.

The changes to HB 60 also seek to tighten permission to carry a gun at unsecured areas of Georgia airports, including Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. They do not address language in the House version that would appear to allow convicted felons to avoid prosecution for the use of deadly force by invoking Georgia’s “stand your ground” self-defense laws.

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The Senate vote to approve the changes was 37-18. The bill now heads back to the House, which can agree or disagree to it.

The Senate’s actions parry those made by the House earlier this month, when it amended HB 60 to insert language designed to garner additional support and quell criticism of an effort that would be one of the broadest expansions of gun rights for the state. Those changes included:

  • The elimination of a provision that said a licensed weapons permit holder would only face a $100 civil fine if caught with a weapon on a college campus.
  • A change in the section that would have barred those judged mentally ill from receiving a permit to offer those individuals a right to appeal that ruling.
  • Added flexibility for local governments in the provision that would allow weapons in public buildings where no security guards the door.

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