OPINION: What if gun laws and voting laws were the same in Georgia for once?

A man purchases a gun at a store in Glendale California. AFP PHOTO/GABRIEL BOUYS

A man purchases a gun at a store in Glendale California. AFP PHOTO/GABRIEL BOUYS

For every bill the Georgia General Assembly passes this session to loosen gun laws, what if lawmakers also agree to apply the same approach to voting?

It seems logical enough, based on the arguments put forward by gun rights activists this week during a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on Senate Bill 319, a bill to eliminate the state license that’s now required to carry a concealed firearm in Georgia.

The main argument for supporters of “Constitutional Carry,” as Republicans like to call it, is in the name: Constitutional.

Carrying a firearm is a God-given right enshrined by the Second Amendment, proponents said this week. And law-abiding citizens should not have to jump through government hoops to exercise that right.

Likewise, the right to vote is enshrined in the 14th, 15th, 19th, 24th, and 25th amendments to the Constitution.

By Republicans’ own logic, voting should be equally free of government hoops, or at least afforded the same level of constitutional freedom that gun owners get.

At Wednesday’s Judiciary hearing, state Sen. Jason Anavitarte told his colleagues he sponsored permit-less carry “based on the inherent Second Amendment right that we do not have government barriers, have government bureaucracy, other extra layers and steps, that basically infringes on that right.”

A gun license, the Republican from Dallas told senators, is a government-sponsored barrier that he wants to eliminate.

Applying for a license to carry a weapon currently includes providing a photo ID, but so does voting. Is the new voter ID requirement in SB 202 just as onerous as the permit Republicans want to eliminate?

What if there were a requirement to mail in a gun-license application 78 days before the day you want your permit , but no fewer than 11 days ahead of that day, as SB 202 prescribes for absentee voting applications? Would that infringe upon gun owners’ rights, too?

Also, lines at county probate courts to apply for carry licenses have been notoriously long in the past as applications have increased.

What if it was illegal to give someone in one of those lines a snack while they wait within 150 feet of the courthouse? That might feel like an infringement to Sen. Anavitarte. It might even feel like gun owners were being discouraged from applying for a permit to carry a gun, in the first place, which is their constitutional right after all.

The first witness for Republicans at the Wednesday hearing, Aaron Dorr, also said that Georgians’ constitutional right to bear arms should not be infringed by the senators in that room.

Dorr was introduced as being with “Georgia Gun Owners,” but he is primarily the executive director of Iowa Gun Owners and has worked to loosen gun laws in Missouri, Wyoming, Iowa, and elsewhere.

“This is about freedom,” he said. “And it’s about law-abiding Georgians not having to put their name in a government database, being tracked by their own government, just to exercise a Second Amendment right.”

If having your name in a database is extreme, what about the state voter file? It’s a government database.

In fact, to keep that government database fresh, the state requires Georgians to notify election authorities every time they’ve moved so that the database will know exactly where you live every time you show up to vote. That seems fishy, too, right Mr. Dorr?

When state Sen. Elena Parent asked Dorr if carrying a deadly weapon shouldn’t at least have the same license requirements as driving a car, Dorr shot back.

“The difference is there’s no constitutional right given to us by our Founding Fathers to drive a car and how we operate and travel. Our right to bear arms is constitutionally guaranteed,” he told the Atlanta Democrat.

But the right to vote is constitutionally guaranteed, too.

Another argument from the Constitutional Carriers on Wednesday was the sheer futility of gun laws. Bad guys don’t follow the laws, only good guys do, so why have the laws at all?

“Do the folks who break the law care if we have a law that says they need a gun permit?” Sen. Blake Tillery, a Republican from Vidalia, asked rhetorically, but not really, because Anavitarte answered anyway.

“No,” Anavitarte said. The bad guys don’t care about the laws.

So if bad buys don’t apply for concealed carry permits, it’s also logical to assume that bad guys are not going to legally apply for an absentee ballot either.

So why make it so hard for the good guys to vote?

In fact, if we’re following the new permitless carry standard, why make the good guys register to vote at all?

Once a person has been determined to be a legal voter, is it the government’s right to make them prove themselves every time they want to exercise a right the Constitution has already given them?

Pressed by Democrats on the constitutional arguments they were making, the Constitutional Carry backers said they weren’t experts in constitutional law, per se. But they stuck to their guns anyway.

When the hearing wasn’t divining the Founding Fathers’ intent, state Sen. Elena Parent also pointed out that the existing permit process kept more than 5,000 applicants in Georgia from obtaining weapons carry licenses in 2020.

The majority of denials were based on prior criminal convictions, outstanding arrests, mental health flags, or domestic violence charges. It turns out the bad guys did care about the law, in 2020 anyway.

Late Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed SB 319 by a vote of 6 to 3.

Needing a permit to exercise your Second Amendment rights in Georgia could soon be a thing of the past.

As for your exercising your 14th, 15th, 19th, 24th, and 25th Amendment rights, the Georgia General Assembly will tell you when, where, how, with what documentation, and whose snacks you may or may not consume while waiting in line to exercise those God-given rights when they’re good and ready.

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