DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. — Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law Georgia's newest gun policy Tuesday. It would allow folks to carry firearms without a permit – a bill derided by critics as dangerous and by its backers as a blessing.
Now it’s state law and a huge issue as he seeks re-election.
"Let’s get this done," Kemp said to a crowd of cheering onlookers outside of a gun store in Douglasville, as he stepped to a table to sign two bills enacting "constitutional carry."
"This simply allows you not to have to get a piece of paper to legally carry. And look, the criminals are getting the guns anyway," Kemp told reporters afterward.
The law eliminates the requirement for a background check to obtain a government-issued permit to carry a firearm in public. It is still illegal for children, convicted felons and folks adjudicated with mental health issues to do so.
Critics say it opens the door to more guns on the street.
"The logic that if we put more guns on the street and guns in more people's hands, that we will have less crime is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard," said state Rep. Roger Bruce (D-South Fulton).
In the spring of 2018, an 11Alive News / Survey USA poll showed Georgians overwhelmingly opposed eliminating the permit requirement to carry a handgun. We asked:
Should Georgia continue to require permits to carry handguns or should Georgia allow any legally qualified handgun owner to carry a handgun without a permit?
- 84% continue to require permit
- 13% no permit
- 3% not sure
However, that poll indicated Republicans supported constitutional carry.
In February of this year, an AJC poll found that voters still overwhelmingly disagree with the removal of the gun permit requirement. It asked:
Do you agree or disagree that adults in Georgia should be allowed to carry concealed handguns in public without a license?
- 21% strongly agree
- 7% somewhat agree
- 10% somewhat disagree
- 60% strongly disagree
- 3% don’t know
Though Kemp said repeatedly in 2018 he'd support a constitutional carry bill if the legislature passed it, he put his full support behind a constitutional carry bill this year for the first time – after former Sen. David Perdue challenged him for the Republican nomination.
"The Second Amendment is very, very strong in Georgia," Perdue said when asked about poll numbers.
"I don’t know what voters you're talking about," Perdue said Tuesday morning. "I can tell you right now, I support the second amendment and am absolutely in support of constitutional carry."
Kemp signed the measure at a store where he said he and his wife Marti purchased a Glock 9mm pistol for their middle daughter Lucy several years ago.
"I think when you poll every day Georgians, they’re scared," Kemp said. "People don’t have to carry if they don’t want to. But this is a constitutional authority people have."