ATLANTA — The Georgia Senate passed a bill that would eliminate the requirement for a permit to carry a firearm in public. The election year bill passed on a strict party line vote Monday.
"Criminals... do not care about having a carry permit," said state Sen. Jason Anavitarte (R-Dallas), sponsor of the bill during Senate debate.
Constitutional carry would eliminate the need for a government permit to carry firearms.
It would still be illegal for convicted felons to carry weapons, as well as anybody adjudicated to have a mental illness.
Republicans say it’s to help Georgians defend themselves against violent crime.
"It’s the young mom who just heard on the radio in her car there was another carjacking at her neighborhood gas station," Anavitarte told his colleagues Monday.
"What about folks who might have mental problems, folks involved in family violence," state Sen. David Lucas (D-Macon) asked Anavitarte.
"Senator, if you’re a law abiding citizen, you can carry your weapon," Anavitarte answered.
"How do you know?" asked Lucas.
Democrats argued that eliminating the permit eliminates an important check on folks who aren’t allowed to have guns to begin with.
"The real irony of this bill is that it directly protects criminals," said state Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta) during debate.
Critics say Georgia courts denied at least 5,200 gun permit applications last year. Bills eliminating the permit requirement to carry a firearm have languished at the capitol because even some Republicans viewed them as too extreme -- until this year.
Backers of the bill say gun laws haven't changed significantly in Georgia since 2014, yet crime has risen. "I am curious what you (attribute) the rise in murder in Atlanta to?" Sen. Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming) asked Parent.
"That’s because we have no laws around guns, so everyone friggin' has one," Parent exclaimed. "We’re the laughing stock of the developed world with our gun laws."
Backed by Gov. Brian Kemp, Republicans passed constitutional carry in the state senate on a party line vote. It won’t be a surprise if the same thing happens in the next few days in the state house of representatives.