Despite the objections of some law enforcement groups, a bill that would expand the rights of Georgia citizens to carry concealed weapons passed by a vote of 41 to 15 in the state Senate. The bill would allow those with concealed weapons permits to carry their weapon in a state park or historic site. Drivers eligible for a gun permit also would be able to carry a loaded firearm anywhere they want in their car.
The most contentious provision in the bill was pushed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and would have allowed employees to leave a firearm in their locked car at work. The Georgia Chamber of Commerce lobbied against the provision, arguing the change in current law would have trampled the private property rights of business owners. The Senate Rules Committee modified the bill after Gov. Sony Perdue voiced the same objection and signaled he might veto the NRA-sponsored language. After the modification and vote, Perdue said the new version appeared to be acceptable. The bill will now be considered by the Georgia House of Representatives.
Under the bill, only the 300,000 Georgians with concealed weapons permits would be eligible to take advantage of the parking lot provision. And workplace property owners would have a say in the matter. In publicly accessible parking lots, the same rules must apply to customers and employees. Guns could only be banned for employees if they are prohibited for customers as well.
Some spokesmen for law enforcement groups are worried about a separate part of the new bill that would give drivers more freedom to carry their loaded gun anywhere they like in their vehicle.
“There are a lot of police officers who are killed in routine traffic stops in this country,’’ said Frank V. Rotondo, executive director of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police. He noted that child safety is also an issue.
The bill’s original sponsor, Rep. Timothy Bearden, defended it. “Law-abiding citizens shouldn’t fear they are breaking the law when all they are trying to do is protect themselves,’’ the Republican from Villa Rica said.
The bill also makes it a felony to send “straw purchasers’’ to attempt to buy guns in Georgia, a loud rebuke to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who sued several Georgia gun dealers after they sold pistols to undercover investigators as part of a sting operation.