Each new year means law-abiding gun owners in Georgia need to be on the lookout for the latest assault on the Second Amendment. You may have seen discussions about bills that could affect your gun and self-defense rights. Here is a preview of some bills and issues that have been filed and raised (so far) that are noteworthy. However, please keep in mind that all the bills and resolutions listed below are only proposals and not law.
The latest session of the General Assembly officially began January 11th, but in the weeks before the first session was called to order, more than 50 bills had been pre-filed in the Georgia House, not counting various House resolutions and almost 20 Senate bills. At least two of these early frontrunners could have implications for firearm rights in Georgia. Let’s take a look at the bills Georgia’s gun owners should pay particular attention to in this session.
HB 2 (2021) – Georgia Constitutional Carry Act of 2021
Pre-filed November 16, 2020, by 71st District Representative Philip Singleton, the “Georgia Constitutional Carry Act of 2021” intends to radically change the numerous carry laws across the breadth of Georgia’s statutes. The bill seeks to amend all state laws that restrict public carry only to Weapons Carry License holders, instead extending the right to carry in all places a current Weapons Carry License holder may carry to what the bill calls “lawful weapons carriers.” That includes individuals who possess a Georgia Weapons Carry License or license granted reciprocity in Georgia, as well as individuals without Weapons Carry Licenses who are not prohibited from possessing weapons (handguns or knives with blades longer than 12 inches) or long guns (rifles and shotguns). At first reading it appears the bill would not necessarily expand where a Weapons Carry License holder could carry, but in fact would allow anyone legally capable of carrying a weapon to carry without a Weapons Carry License in any location currently approved for carry with a License.
HB 52 (2021) – Crimes and offenses; persons convicted of family violence offenses cannot possess or carry firearms
Pre-filed December 21, 2020, by 63rd District Representative Debra Bazemore, HB 52 would criminalize at the state level the possession of firearms by individuals convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. The 1996 Lautenberg Amendments to the 1968 Gun Control Act made it a federal offense for individuals convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence to possess firearms or ammunition. Consequently, a state conviction of such a domestic violence crime (such as family violence battery, assault, disorderly conduct, or any crime that has “as an element, the use or attempted use of physical force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon”) prohibits the possession of the firearm. Currently, there is no state law that criminalizes the possession, meaning the only avenue of possible prosecution would be in federal court. This bill seeks to make it a state crime that can be prosecuted as a high and aggravated misdemeanor or felony (depending on the specific elements of each case) in Georgia courts, and would further bar individuals under a First Offender Act sentence for misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence from possession of firearms, where currently the law does not provide for such exclusion.
Sessions of the General Assembly are two years in length (although the General Assembly meets a total of only 40 days in each year of the session), so these bills could stay alive the entirety of the 2021-2022 regular session. More bills that could directly affect Georgians’ right to carry may be offered (such as a perennial “assault weapons ban” typically filed in every session), so it’s important to keep up to date on current filings in the General Assembly.
Federal Proposals on the Horizon
Last session, the 116th U.S. Congress proposed assault weapons bans, red flag orders, mandatory reporting of NICS denials to law enforcement, and countless other anti-2A legislation. All of these individual proposals were awful, but none were worse than the omnibus HR 5717 (Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act of 2020), which would have incorporated the worst provisions of each of these proposals. If you want a preview of what anti-gun bills filed during the 117th Congress could look like, pay attention to HR 5717. The 117th Congress was sworn in on January 3, 2021, and their term ends on January 3, 2023. To learn about how federal law is made, check out The Legislative Process by the United States House of Representatives, and stay tuned. We are keeping a close watch for bills and resolutions that would affect Second Amendment rights.
Should you have any questions about the bills discussed or the legislative process, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.
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