PolitiFact: Are Georgia’s gun laws most lax in U.S.?

Georgia has the most lax gun laws in the nation.

Georgia state Sen. Donzella James during a March 4, 2013, debate about Senate Bill 101


PolitiFact Georgia is usually interested when an elected official claims the Peach State is first or worst in a particular category.

State Sen. Donzella James, a Democrat who represents portions of Douglas and Fulton counties, had us listening closely when she made a specific statement about guns and Georgia.

The lawmakers were discussing Senate Bill 101, which would allow Georgians as young as 18 to be granted a gun license if they’ve completed basic military training, as long as the person has not been dishonorably discharged. The bill also would eliminate a ban on guns in public housing, unless required by federal law or regulation.

Senate Bill 101 passed by a 41-10 margin and is now in the hands of the House of Representatives.

James had serious concerns about the bill and went into the well to speak in front of her colleagues.

“We know that Georgia has the most lax laws (for) carrying guns,” said James, a self-described gun owner, who prefaced her remarks by saying she hadn’t planned to speak.

James was referring to Georgia’s gun laws in general, not just permits to carry firearms.

We wondered: Does Georgia have the most lax gun laws in America?

Some gun control organizations regularly rank each state based on its gun laws. The most prominent group, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, gave Georgia an 8 on a scale of 100 in terms of the toughness of its gun laws in 2011. Liz Flowers, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Senate Democrats, sent us a link to that report.

To clarify, 8 is not considered a good score as far as gun control advocates are concerned. Georgia received points for not allowing guns on college campuses, requiring a license, record-keeping, retention and police inspections.

For those who are distressed by Georgia’s score, take comfort. Twenty-seven states received lower scores than Georgia that year. Alaska, Arizona and Utah received not one point. In 2009, the Brady Campaign also gave Georgia a score of 8. There were nearly 20 states that received a lower score.

The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action has been unimpressed with the Brady rankings. It notes only a handful of states receive passing marks from Brady and say states that score high have higher crime rates. The NRA complains the Brady Campaign gives points to states with gun laws that supplement federal gun laws.

Another group, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, gave Georgia a D for the toughness of its gun control laws. Again, many states did far worse. Twenty states received a grade of F from the group. The center gives best practices for policies such as laws prohibiting gun dealers from residential areas, laws requiring a license to purchase ammunition and those that require gun safety training.

UCLA Law School professor Eugene Volokh, who has been writing and teaching about U.S. gun laws for several years, says it is difficult to completely determine which states have the most lax gun laws because there are so many ways to examine the claim. For example, he said, it can be examined by the types of weapons permitted in each state. Some criteria he prefers are examining how easy it is to carry a concealed gun or at what age you can get a permit.

Four states — Alaska, Arizona, Vermont and Wyoming — allow law-abiding adults to carry a concealed firearm without a permit, The Washington Post noted. The Post also reported that Vermont allows people as young as 16 to buy a handgun. Georgia laws are not as permissive, Volokh observed.

“Georgia is not the most gun-friendly state in the nation, but probably not the most hostile, either,” Volokh said.

So where does this all leave us? The senator said, “We know that Georgia has the most lax laws (for) carrying guns.”

From our review, Georgia is considered to have some lax gun laws. It’s possible from some of the changes proposed, Georgia could score lower in the future. But, for now, there are other states that are far more permissive.

We rate James’ claim False.