Business Casual: Battle Lines, Punchlines

Fellow Georgians, it’s a done deal. As of the first day of this month, we have the most permissive and most ridiculous gun law in the nation. Gun owners – responsible and otherwise – can carry practically anywhere they like.

In a state where Second Amendment rights have not been seriously threatened in recent memory, the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness of ordinary citizens are endangered.

Guns are now allowed in schools, bars and even churches, if their leaders permit. No wonder critics of the Safe Carry Protection Act have taken to calling it the “Guns Everywhere” Law, even though it is more accurately called the “Guns Everywhere Except The State Capitol Because Those Lawmakers Aren’t Really As Crazy As They Look” Law.

I bet a lot of people wake up in Alabama and Mississippi these days saying, “Thank God for Georgia,” knowing they will pretty much get a pass for anything outrageous or dangerous their state legislatures do for the next year or so.

For the record, I’m a fan of the Second Amendment, especially the “well-regulated” part. In fact, I like all Ten Amendments that make up the Bill of Rights. I have no interest in interfering with anyone’s need or desire to own guns for hunting or legitimate self-defense, although I wish gun safety training was as popular as gun purchasing.

I do have a quibble or two with widespread ownership and/or use of assault weapons. I wish it was harder to buy them, legally or otherwise.

So legitimate gun owners, you have nothing to fear from me: I don’t want to take away your weapons any more than you want to force me to own a firearm.

But good grief.

Lots of Georgians have asked this question, and I add my voice to the chorus: Why does anyone (other than a trained law enforcement officer) need to take a loaded gun to a church, an elementary school, a college campus or a bar?

And maybe someone could explain why police officers, under this new law, are not allowed to inquire if individuals have carry permits. Why is that more intrusive than asking for a driver’s license and proof of insurance after a traffic stop?

Why would you need a gun at your kids’ soccer game, your neighborhood coffee bar, a PTA meeting, a church picnic, a city council meeting?

I suspect the answer is that it makes you feel safer, but the truth is it makes a lot of people feel less safe. There’s no way of knowing who has a hair-trigger temper, who’s off his meds, who has a criminal record, who might panic and start shooting indiscriminately.

Georgia’s Guns Everywhere Law also allows individuals to carry weapons into unsecured public buildings – libraries, courthouses, recreation centers – where there are no armed guards. This means cities and counties uncomfortable with the notion of people bringing guns into public spaces must come up with the funds to hire security. For the many communities struggling to find the money to provide basic services, this is not a welcome expense.

And, of course, there is the punchline factor. If you thought Jon Stewart’s riff on last January’s snow jam was funny, you should have seen him go to town on Georgia’s new gun law.

The New Yorker’s Andy Borowitz also had a field day, and publications like The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and others have reported on the law and its extremes.

Don’t care what those pointy-headed intellectual elitists think? Well, maybe you ought to. In a state whose mantra has become “Job Creation,” it does matter what is being said about Georgia to a national audience. The folks who make the decisions that bring jobs are paying attention.

The state’s leadership salivates at the prospect of welcoming out-of-state investment and new companies into Georgia, but seems unfazed at the prospect of being a laughingstock.

It was discouraging if not actually surprising that the Georgia General Assembly passed the gun bill. But it was demoralizing that the Democratic candidate for governor, Sen. Jason Carter, voted for the bill, and that Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, running for re-election, signed it into law.

That’s a failure of leadership with consequences that can do real harm to Georgia and Georgians, both now and later.

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