Georgia Senate votes to fortify gun tradeGeorgia's state Capitol building. Credit: Kelly Jordan.
In a 34-18 party-line vote, Georgia state Senate Republicans voted to protect the gun trade from emergency declarations and from police departments that are sitting on confiscated weapons.
House Bill 218 started life last month as two pages on gun license reciprocity: changing how gun licenses in other states can be recognized here.
Along the way, it became eight pages long and now does several additional things that state Sen. Bo Hatchett, a Cornelia Republican, said will protect the Second Amendment rights of Georgians.
Judges could set up an online process for gun license applications under the bill.
It also says governors can’t shut down gun trade or manufacturing during a state of emergency. It also says the state can’t suspend or revoke any weapons carry license due to emergency and it couldn’t close gun ranges unless all businesses in an area were closed.
And if police departments don’t sell seized guns every six months, any potential interested buyer could go to court to try and force a sale.
A 2012 Georgia law requires police departments to sell confiscated guns. But Atlanta’s police department had gathered up 6,000 that it hadn’t sold as of 2015.
Back in 2015, Atlanta’s police chief said it would be “catastrophic” to put those guns back on the street.
The APD is not selling confiscated firearms at this time, according the department.
Democrats were already denouncing House Bill 218 before it even came up for a Senate floor vote.
State Sen. Michelle Au of Johns Creek told her colleagues that on Friday, she’d been to the funeral of Xiaojie Tan, one of the people shot dead in the metro Atlanta spa killings earlier this month.
Au, a medical doctor who also has a master’s degree in public health, said gun violence shouldn’t be a partisan issue. She said it’s a public health issue.
“Imagine a different public health risk which affected 300 people per day,” Au said. “Imagine that public health risk affected 3,600 children and teens annually. Imagine that public health risk had a 30% fatality rate and imagine year after year doing nothing about it.”
Later in the day just ahead of the bill vote, Atlanta state Sen. Elena Parent brought up another mass shooting, the 2012 movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado.
“This legislation adds more guns to our over-armed and over-weaponized society,” Parent said.
The legislation as passed by the Senate is a bit different from the House version. The two sides have until Wednesday to come to some compromise language to send a bill to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk.
Its chances seem good. Hatchett, the Senate sponsor, is one of Kemp’s official liaisons in the Senate. That means that whatever he does is either at Kemp’s direction, or at least done with the governor’s approval. Hatchett also said the bill was a concerted effort with House members.
Senators also added a late amendment offering protection to the practice of religion during emergencies.