OPINION: Georgia wants to loosen gun carry laws. What can go wrong?

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

It’s election year in Georgia, time for Republicans — again — to push the notion that there needs to be more weaponry out there.

A rising tide of shootings and homicides in many cities, notably Atlanta, is driving the idea that more guns on the street will make society safer. You know, an armed society is a polite society. Or, as the NRA likes to say: The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to have a pistol strapped to the hip of every Tom, Dick and Sally.

Defeated U.S. Sen. David Perdue quickly visited a gun shop for a photo op after announcing he was primarying former colleague, Gov. Brian Kemp. Perdue said he wanted to let Georgians carry concealed weapons without a permit. It’s called “constitutional carry” because the Founding Fathers foresaw a day when Americans would need to carry a TEC-9 to church, the bar or to school.

Not to be outdone, Governor Shotgun soon visited a gun superstore in Smyrna to announce his No Guns Left Behind legislation, which would pretty much allow anyone who could fog a mirror to pack heat.

House Bill 2, the Georgia Constitutional Carry Act, states “evil resides in the heart of the individual, not in material objects.” This means guns don’t kill people, the SOB pulling the trigger does. Also, it mentions “God-given rights” (twice!) because Our Maker apparently wants to see us in the afterlife real soon.

In 2011, Vermont was the only state that did not require a permit for residents to carry concealed weapons, according to Pew Charitable Trusts, an independent policy and research organization. Now there are at least 21 states.

A new poll taken for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says about 70% of Georgians oppose allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons without a permit. But the heck with public opinion at large, there’s a primary election coming and craven pols must please the base.

The downside of letting just about anyone to carry is evident. People can be careless, emotional and intemperate. Throw guns into the mix and Kapow! Things get infinitely worse. What would have been angry words and a few punches end up being through-and-through shots in the chest.

Take, for instance, the gun shop in Duluth last week. According to police, John August, employee of the Gun Lobby, shot the owner, Chuck Collins, after an argument escalated. Both were carrying guns, because ... it’s a gun shop!

According to police spokesperson Ted Sadowski, police have video from a security camera that shows the two arguing and scuffling. Collins tried to pull his gun, the two rolled around and then the shooter, off camera, pulled his gun and shot the owner twice.

August says it was a case of him or me. He told 911 that he “had to” shoot Collins. “We were having a verbal argument and he grabbed his gun,” he said. “I really was defending my life.” The wounds were not life threatening, and police are awaiting the Gwinnett County district attorney’s office to determine if it was a justified shooting or a crime. August was taken to the hospital complaining of heart issues because it’s stressful to shoot someone.

Recently, retired Atlanta homicide cop Keith Meadows, now the city of South Fulton’s chief, told me that shootings often come from a sudden outburst of emotion. “There’s a certain amount of angst, and with that angst, people are quick to draw,” he said. “And now that everyone has guns, it’s like the fastest draw.”

One would think a couple gun shop guys would be well-versed in weapon safety and know what to do and, especially, what not to do. Imagine what will happen with the run-of-the-mill knucklehead on the street. Or when Regular Joes fearing they will become a victim make sure to get off the first shot. Remember, fastest draw wins.

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

I called Republican state Rep. Bill Hitchens, a Vietnam vet who worked decades in law enforcement, ultimately heading the state Department of Public Safety. “I’m a gun-rights advocate, but I’m stuck in the middle,” he said.

“It causes me some concern when everybody is carrying a gun. Who has a mental health problem or a criminal record?” he said. “One thing that causes concern is carrying guns into bars or places that serve alcohol. Then, decision-making ability is changed. What happens in a bar when there’s a fight? If everyone has a gun, they start shooting. People’s tempers get them in a lot of trouble.”

He noted there’s a “bubble on both sides” of the political divide and “the silent majority in the middle.” The latter don’t get heard from much these days.

Democratic state Sen. Sally Harrell has trotted out a “common sense” bill that calls for training for gun owners.

“The message that permit-less carry sends is that you should carry a gun, that it’s not big deal,” she said. She originally was going to tie the training to when gun owners went to get a permit. With the new GOP proposal, she is seeking to have gun owners complete training and get a certificate, one that people could present to police if requested.

She said several Republican lawmakers were receptive to the idea of gun training until Kemp brought out the permit-less carry issue.

Then they scattered as if she were waving a pistol at them.