COMMENTARY | Georgia’s general assembly, dominated by pro-gun Republicans, failed to pass a pro-gun law. Details are still emerging, but there are a few lessons for Republicans and Democrats not just in the Peach State, but across the country as well.
Georgia conservatives introduced not one, but two pro-gun bills. The General Assembly’s House supported HB 512 while the Senate backed SB 101. SB 101 was supported by the National Rifle Association and was more modest in its scope.
HB 512 was supported by a group called GeorgiaCarry.org. It was more sweeping in its aims, seeking to expand the rights of Georgians to carry guns into bars, churches and colleges. Given the opposition of many of these groups to the new law, as well as the concerns of law enforcement, the Senate had much less stomach for the bill.
Rather than pass SB 101, which had much broader support, the House passed an amended version of SB 101 which included the more controversial items from HB 512. Both legislative branches could not agree on the details, and the bill died before it could get to Gov. Nathan Deal.
I’m sure all sides will be blaming each other, but it appears that there were several ways that pro-gun Georgians could have made this work.
First, rather than have the NRA and GeorgiaCarry.org, as well as “Georgia Gun Owners” (another group) fighting each other, they should have worked together to find common ground, rather than snipe at each other through mailings and robocalls.
Second, Georgians may be pro-gun but they have little stomach for expanding the ability of the mentally handicapped to have firearm or expanding permit carry zones for permits that don’t involve training. Perhaps toughening standards on both could have broader appeal.
Third, college leaders were dead set against removing laws that would allow such permit holders to carry guns on campus. The law even seemed to recognize the dangers of weapons in some college venues, like athletic events, dorms and fraternity gatherings, according to Rep. Scott Holcomb. Heated classroom discussions and even disciplinary hearings are no safer zones for guns. Pro-gun supporters might have worked with colleges to also find common ground.
This isn’t just a lesson for Republicans. There’s also one for national Democrats, rushing to provide multiple gun control bills. Groups need to work together and perhaps reach out to opponents, even when you’re in the majority.
John A. Tures is an associate professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga.