Georgia is sticking to its guns. As of July 1, a new state law permits licensed owners there to carry their firearms in more places than ever, from bars to churches to certain parts of airports and schools.
Gun-rights activists like Jerry Henry of Georgia Carry led the charge.
“Our goal is to make the second amendment mean what it says, and that’s that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” Henry told Fusion.
On the other side, gun-control supporters are up in arms. They call it the “guns everywhere” law, and they point to surveys like a recent Atlanta Journal Constitution poll that showed 70 percent of Georgians didn’t back the law.
“I think we need to remember that there is a fringe, that is Georgia Carry, it is also Campus Carry, and that fringe pressured our politicians, our legislators,” said Wendy Wittmayer of Moms Demand Action, which was founded after the Sandy Hook school shooting.
Republican Governor Nathan Deal signed the bill this spring after it passed 112-58 in the House and 37-18 in the Senate, roughly along party lines.
While the political debate smolders, business owners like Matt Ruppert of Noni’s Bar are taking their own measures. His popular nightspot will soon prohibit guns on the premises, a choice the law allows him to make for his property.
“It just doesn’t make sense for someone to carry a weapon in a crowded bar when folks are drinking,” Ruppert said.
Guns have been everywhere for a while in Kennesaw, a town twenty miles north of Atlanta. An ordinance passed there 30 years ago requiring residents to own a gun. Dent Myers, the owner of Wildman’s Civil War Surplus Store, helped spark the change. He stands by it.
“We did this just to emphasize our belief in the second amendment,” Myers said. “The media and all them said there’d be blood running in the streets, killings on every corner, but that didn’t happen.”
It’s unlikely that Georgia’s new law will influence national gun policy. Since Newtown, dozens of states have passed new gun laws. Some are stronger, some are weaker – there are degrees of change. But it’s clear that a broad shift is far off. Many of the states deregulating guns are conservative. Those getting more strict are often liberal.
Meanwhile, there have also been more than 12,000 gun-related deaths since Newtown. Guns aren’t going away. Neither is gun violence.
“We don’t believe guns are a solution to the problem” of gun violence, Wittmayer told us.
Myers stood his ground. “Do we have a gun problem? Yeah – we don’t have enough of them.”