Georgia Senate gives final approval to ‘permit-less carry’ gun bill

March 15, 2022 Atlanta - Senator Randy Robertson (R-Cataula) introduces SB 171 in the Senate Chambers at the Georgia State Capitol on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. Senate Bill 171 would increase the penalties for crimes such as blocking a highway, assaulting someone or damaging property if it involves groups of two or more. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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March 15, 2022 Atlanta - Senator Randy Robertson (R-Cataula) introduces SB 171 in the Senate Chambers at the Georgia State Capitol on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. Senate Bill 171 would increase the penalties for crimes such as blocking a highway, assaulting someone or damaging property if it involves groups of two or more. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

The Georgia Senate on Friday gave final approval to a bill that would let Georgians carry a concealed handgun without getting a license from the state.

Senate Bill 319 would allow Georgians to carry a concealed handgun everywhere license holders currently are allowed to carry them. Guns would still be prohibited in the secured areas of airports, government buildings that have security at the entrance and other secured areas.

Under the bill, only those who are legally allowed to carry a gun could carry a concealed handgun. Those who could not carry a concealed weapon include people who have prior drug convictions, have been convicted of a felony or are facing felony charges, or have been treated for mental health issues or substance abuse issues within the past five years.

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Critics say dispensing with the licensing process will loosen restrictions that help prevent crimes.

“The proliferation of weapons without safeguards is what makes our streets dangerous and causes so much bloodshed,” Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, said during a debate Friday.

Supporters say the right to bear arms is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. They say people, not guns, are responsible for rising crime.

“Let’s stop blaming an inanimate object,” said Sen. Randy Robertson, R-Cataula.

The state would still issue concealed-carry permits to allow Georgians to take advantage of gun carry “reciprocity” with other states. Such agreements allow gun owners to carry concealed handguns in states that offer the same permissions.

SB 319 passed by a vote of 34-22. The measure now goes to Gov. Brian Kemp, who has said he supported passing legislation to allow handguns to be carried without a permit.

The measure quickly drew praise and condemnation.

“This is a great day for gun owners, as fully half of the states in America will have restored the constitutional right to bear arms without government infringement or taxation on that right,” said Dudley Brown, president of the National Association for Gun Rights.

Democratic Party of Georgia spokesman Max Flugrath said Kemp’s approval of the bill “would ignore law enforcement’s warnings that it would put officers in greater danger — all in an effort to gain the support of special interests and extremists” as Kemp seeks reelection.

The General Assembly also sent another firearms measure, Senate Bill 479, to Kemp on Friday.

The House voted 96-64 to require prosecutors to charge someone who already was convicted of a felony and later was arrested with multiple firearms to be charged with a separate offense for each weapon.