CARLTON FLETCHER: Proposed Georgia gun bill removes few remaining restrictions

OPINION: State headed back to the days of the Wild West

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

Send lawyers, guns and money. The sh has hit the fan.

Warren Zevon

OK, OK, Georgia state Legislature. We get it.

This is, by god, Georgia, and we wear our red-state status proudly. We’re outdoorsmen and we’re hunters and we unabashedly display our NRA membership cards alongside our weapons carry permits. Hell, we don’t even mind that our elected officials get a lot of their bribe … ummm … campaign contribution money from those God-fearing boys with the National Rifle Association.

But really, are we so scared — or, perhaps, gun crazy? — that our Legislature feels it’s necessary for people to carry their weapons in churches and bars? Or is this just our leaders’ way of showing off, of making a mockery of public safety in a misguided measuring contest that essentially opens the door for the gun lobby and says, “Here you go, have what you want”?

House Bill 875, which ties up pretty much any remaining loophole that keeps Georgia gun owners from going full-on Wild West with their weapons, is currently on its fast-track way through the Legislature. The bill is a comprehensive hodgepodge of restriction busting that, among other things:

— Allows persons with permits to now carry their weapons into churches (because, God knows, there are sinners among us);

— Allows guns in bars (a brilliant move, because everyone knows what a nice mix alcohol and deadly weapons make);

— Removes the fingerprinting requirement for gun license renewal (because no self-respecting unlicensed gun owner would take advantage of that freedom);

— Creates an “absolute defense for legal use of deadly force” in the face of a violent attack (the so-called “So what if it turns out he’s a scumbag, George Zimmerman is an American hero” amendment because potential violent attacks spring up in the oddest places);

— Repeals the requirement of state licensure for firearm dealers (who wants to do all that darned paperwork anyway?);

— Ends the ban of firearms in public housing (the mind reels with comments, but we won’t go there);

— Allows weapons to be brought into “non-secure areas” of airports (which will no doubt give those lousy terrorists pause);

— Allows schools to decide if staff and faculty may carry weapons (talk about ending your discipline problems, with prejudice! … and there are rumors that bill sponsor Rick Jesperse is pushing to let students pack heat as well, which he allegedly said, will put an abrupt end to the growing bullying problem).

Since there was such an outcry against allowing weapons on college and university campuses, legislators decided against including that caveat in their comprehensive gun package. To get around it, though, they cleverly added wording to the proposed bill saying that anyone caught carrying a weapon at good ol’ State U would not be subject to arrest, but could instead be fined “not more than $100.”

A similar portion of the bill — which I believe our legislators are calling the “you can’t fight city hall but you can damned sure bring your guns there as long as you leave when someone points out that you aren’t supposed to have it in a government building” — diminishes charges that can be brought against weapons carriers in courthouses and other government structures.

As I said, we get it. The world is a bad place, and a new generation of criminals raised on pop culture that stresses “shoot first, questions are for lawyers” has it in their heads that the best way to get what you want (without working for it) or to settle a disagreement is to get a deadly weapon — they’re easy to come by, very few restrictions — and blast away at anyone who “disses” you. These lawmakers obviously don’t believe law enforcement offers sufficient protection — except for those who travel with personal bodyguards — so they’re going to their next-best option.

Basically, just turn people loose with their guns and let the chips — and bullets — fall where they may. It keeps gun-lovers happy, and those NRA contributions, well, heck, that’s just a bonus.

Of course, if you’re one of those people who wants to stop into the local watering hole and have a refreshing drink or who’s looking for a little soul-cleansing at the Sacred House of the Redeemer, you’d best get ready to keep your eyes peeled for overzealous righters of wrongs. They’ll be the ones two pews over who’re strapped and on guard. You never know when someone might try to snatch a buck or two from the offering plate.

Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.