ATLANTA — Backers of gun rights in Georgia want even more of them. Earlier this year, lawmakers gave gun owners the right to carry firearms without a government permit. Now they want the minimum age lowered.
The Republican majority at the state Capitol has expanded gun rights for much of the last decade -- but gun rights backers say there's room for more.
This spring Gov. Brian Kemp went to a gun store to sign a bill allowing eligible Georgians to carry firearms in public without a government permit. It made Georgia one of 25 states with laws allowing permitless carry.
In order to carry a gun in Georgia, one has to be free of felony convictions and be 21 years old.
GA2A, a gun rights group, wants to lower that age from 21 to 18.
"Since you’re old enough to vote, you're old enough to go to Afghanistan and places like that when you're 18 years old, we feel like you’re old enough to defend yourself when you come back from those places," said Jerry Henry, executive director of GA2A, which backed constitutional carry this year.
Aside from lowering the age for permitless carry, GA2A wants to eliminate the fines for people who violate a church’s ban on guns. It also wants to allow folks to carry handguns into probate court offices where gun permits are issued.
Although "constitutional carry" eliminated the requirement for permits, Georgians can still get them to use in other states that honor out-of-state gun-carry permits.
"There's no reason why I shouldn’t be able to carry into a probate court to get a firearms license," Henry said.
Yes there is, said Democratic state Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta).
"The argument from this group is that more people having more guns in more places makes people safer. Anyone can take a look around American society and certainly in Georgia and see that that’s simply not true," she said, citing increases in gun-related assaults and killings.
GA2A contends that less-strict gun laws better allow potential victims to defend themselves against criminals.
Constitutional Carry passed the state House and Senate with thin margins this year. November’s election changed the mix of lawmakers, perhaps adding uncertainty to gun-friendly legislation going into 2023.