ATLANTA — There are at least thirteen gun bills in the Georgia legislature so far this year and more may follow. The bills represent some minor adjustments and others have some sweeping changes.
Georgia lawmakers have pulled the legislative trigger on some controversial gun rights expansions over the years and they could do it again.
There’s one bill (HB 2) that would eliminate altogether the requirement for a gun carry permit in Georgia. There’s an opposite bill (HB 165) that would tighten the gun carry permit to include a fingerprint background check. They lead fusillade of new gun legislation.
"They (gun bills) were almost nonexistent for many, many years," said state Rep. Bill Hitchens (R-Rincon). "It’s a sign of the times. Guns, people are very interested in them on both sides."
Bill Hitchens is a former state trooper, Vietnam veteran and the new chairman of the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee that will hear many of the new gun bills.
"I’ve carried a gun all my life. I know the value of having one for self defense. But I’ve also seen the damage that they can do. And we have to be very cautious about who has guns and what they’re used for," Hitchens said in an interview with 11Alive News Friday.
Among the new gun bills:
- HB 78 would add a requirement for gun training for people getting carry permits
- SB 34 would restrict access to guns from people with mental illness issues.
- SB 33 would outlaw carrying guns into government buildings – which is not generally illegal now.
- HB 122 would repeal campus carry, the gun bill signed into law just two years ago.
- HB 55 would restrict producing guns with 3D printers.
- SB 39 would allow cities to destroy confiscated firearms.
- And there are at least three bills (HB 20, HB 58, HB 137) that would restrict guns from people convicted of domestic violence crimes.
Democratic state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) has been fighting Republican gun bills in the Capitol for years. She thinks the mood here is slowly shifting away from expanding gun rights.
"I’m hopeful – a tiny bit more hopeful – that in 2019 we can have a slightly more positive discussion about gun safety. Because guns safety has not been a good discussion in the past," Oliver said.
11Alive found two additional bills that would marginally expand gun rights. SB 72 is a hunting bill, HB 33 is directed at permits for armed forces members. And 13 gun bills may not be enough. It's possible that more are coming.