ATLANTA — Backers of expanded gun rights are hopeful an election-year legislature will eliminate the need for permits to carry a concealed weapon.
Eliminating the requirement for a permit to carry a concealed weapon has been floated repeatedly at the capitol over the years. 2022 could be the year Republican lawmakers actually get it done.
Brian Kemp got a roaring response in 2018 when he campaigned before a big crowd outside a gun store in Jasper. The store owner even gave Kemp a six-shooter. Kemp said in 2018 that he supported eliminating the requirement for state-issued gun carry permits.
Yet at the capitol, those bills never advanced – including one introduced earlier this year by state Rep. Emory Dunahoo (R-Gillsville).
"I know Gov. Kemp had run on 'constitutional carry,'" Dunahoo said in an interview Tuesday. "But with him doing other things, I think he’s had to change priorities."
But Kemp now faces a Republican challenge from former U.S. Senator David Perdue. Perdue has been posting photos of himself in gun stores, talking up gun rights and endorsing bills like Dunahoo’s. Kemp has likewise vowed to work with lawmakers to pass "constitutional carry."
It means "basically that you're not going in to buy a permit that’s going to cost you seventy-five dollars every five years," Dunahoo said. "It gives you the opportunity as a law-abiding citizen to carry openly."
Twenty states, from Arizona to Maine have enacted “constitutional carry,” eliminating the permit requirement for concealed carrying of handguns. Tennessee, Texas, Montana, Wyoming and Utah joined the list this year according to CNN.
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.
Yet Dunahoo is hopeful an election year may give new life to constitutional carry. "And this bill here will hopefully pass this year," he said.