U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)-— On February 2, 2022, the Georgia Senate Committee on the Judiciary voted 6-3 to pass SB 319, the Georgia Constitutional Carry Act. SB 319 now goes to the full Senate for a vote. 31 of 56 Georgia State Senators have signed on as sponsors of the bill. It seems likely the full Senate will vote in favor of the measure.
There is a similar measure in the Georgia House; HB2. The Bill was filed last year but was not acted on. A committee vote has not been taken on the House bill, either last year or this year. HB 2 currently shows six sponsors in the House. The Georgia House has 180 members.
Both Governor Kemp and primary challenger David Purdue say they are in favor of Constitutional Carry. Governor Kemp has been the subject of intense criticism for his actions during the Presidential election in 2020. It is difficult to say how emerging evidence of extensive ballot harvesting during the 2020 election in Georgia may influence that race.
In 2020, Chief Justice Melton of The Supreme Court of Georgia issued a Statewide Judicial Emergency. The Council of Probate Judges labeled Georgia’s Weapons Carry Licenses as a non-essential service. Four lawsuits were filed to force the issuance of licenses or for Constitutional Carry. None prevailed, in part because probate judges started to issue licenses again. This judicial shutting down of carry license applications provides proponents of Constitutional Carry additional fuel for Constitutional Carry. It showed how little respect the right to carry has in Georgia courts.
One of the most significant opponents of Constitutional Carry in Georgia has been Representative Bill Hitchens (R-Rincon) in the House.
At the Georgia capitol, the opposition has come from Democrats – and even from some Republicans like state Rep. Bill Hitchens (R-Rincon), a respected Vietnam War and law enforcement veteran. “I’m very pro-gun. But I’ve seen the damage they can inflict on many, many occasions. We have to be very careful about our gun laws and who we allow to have them,” Hitchens said in an interview in January 2020. Hitchens was chairman of the committee that kept “constitutional carry” from advancing to a vote in the House.
Here is a Youtube video in which Hitchens states his views:
In watching the progress of Constitutional Carry over the last 18 years, the importance of personalities is difficult to overstate. In several states, one or two Republican committee chairs have been responsible for stalling or preventing Constitutional Carry from coming up for a vote, often for years.
Only when the offending legislator was removed did the bill move forward. This solution may be effective in Georgia.
This year, both incumbent Governor Kemp and President Trump endorsed David Purdue has each championed Constitutional Carry. With those endorsements, a different outcome might be possible.
Representative Hitchens has been replaced by Representative J. Collins Of House District 68, as Chairman of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee. Hitchens is still a member of the committee. It is reasonable to expect he has an outsized influence there.
Proponents of Constitutional Carry have seen their ability to obtain a permit to carry subject to the whims of judges who declare an emergency; and that judges deem even substantial restrictions on where one may carry outside the home as insufficient as to be deemed an infringement.
This correspondent expects the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee is where the fate of this legislature’s attempt at passing Constitutional Carry in Georgia will be decided.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.