In the midst of many high-profile gun violence cases, Georgia lawmakers voted to allow bar and church owners to decide whether they will allow patrons to carry guns inside their buildings.
Georgia’s majority conservative House of Representatives approved the legislation with a 119-56 vote.
The proposal will also limit the punishment for people who carry firearms into airports and on college campuses.
Opponents of the new legislation have sited high-profile cases such as the 2012 Aurora, Colo., theater shooting and Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre as reasons gun-owners’ rights should not be extended.
Gun rights advocates, on the other hand, have strong legal support from the Second Amendment which grants U.S. citizens the right to bear arms.
“We don’t need to be penalizing law-abiding citizens and taking away their Second Amendment rights,” said Rep. Rick Jasperse, sponsor of the legislation.
He said that limiting the places where it is lawful to carry weapons only affects “the good guys.”
“Gun-free zones that are created by well-meaning laws are gun-free to the good guys only,” he said. “The bad part of our society does not care. This should not prevent law-abiding Georgians from defending themselves.”
“A gun doesn’t belong in a church,” Sims said. “And a gun doesn’t belong in a bar.”
Meanwhile, Democratic state Rep. Al Williams believed passage of the new legislation hid ulterior motives.
“Call this bill what it is: This is a voter-mobilization bill,” he said. “It ain’t got nothing to do with gun control.”
Democratic state Sen. Nan Orrock found a problem with the section of the legislation that will reduce the punishment for individuals who are caught carrying guns when passing through airport security or on a college campus on condition that they are licensed to carry a weapon, cooperate with authorities, and pay a fine.
The argument for this part of the bill was that some gun owners simply forget that a weapon is in their pocket or in their bag, and they don’t deserve to spend time in jail and have a misdemeanor on their records because of it.
But Orrock says if you are careless enough to forget where you put your gun, then you should not be carrying one.
Even without the legislation, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport officials found a significantly larger number of firearms than any other airport nationwide.
More than 100 firearms were confiscated by the TSA at Atlanta’s major airport last year while other major cities saw numbers closer to 20.
The bill will now be headed for the Senate and is likely to cause a political stir for both parties.