Georgia Senate Passes Bill Ending Need for Gun License

Amy-Grace Shapiro, Feature Editor

On Monday, Feb. 28, the Georgia Senate passed bill 34-32 that simultaneously repeals the license requirement for carrying a handgun in public and eliminates the state’s current background check requirement.

Opponents fear that this measure may fuel gun violence-related deaths and in response, proposed an amendment seeking to expand background checks. However, the Republican-controlled Senate defended the bill. The legislation, Senate Bill 319 or the “Georgia Constitutional Carry Act,” now moves on to the state House floor.  

Supporters of the measure argue that the bill removes unnecessary barriers, such as extra paperwork, to the constitutional right to carry handguns. Under the new legislature, Georgians would be allowed to conceal their legally purchased firearm in public without obtaining a state-issued license. 

Specifically, under the bill, any “lawful weapons carrier” could carry a concealed firearm everywhere license holders currently are allowed without first going through the licensing process, which requires a fingerprint, background check and fee. The state describes a “lawful weapons carrier” as “any person who is not prohibited by law” from carrying a weapon; this excludes Georgians with prior drug convictions, felony convictions or charges and those treated for mental health or substance abuse issues within the past five years. However, lawmakers indicated that machine guns will continue to be prohibited in places such as airports, government buildings and places of worship. 

Currently, Georgians who seek to carry a handgun must apply for a license through their local probate court or sheriff’s office, get fingerprinted, submit to a background check and pay a fee of up to $75. Under SB 319, background checks will remain required when purchasing a handgun from a store or a dealer.

Across the nation, more than 20 other states allow residents to carry concealed weapons in public without a permit, including Arkansas, Iowa, Montana, Tennessee, Texas and Utah, among others

After hours of debating, lawmakers now send the bill to the House of Representatives for consideration.