When members of the General Assembly decided to pass a bill torepealGeorgia's 140 year old public gathering law on Thursday night, they were confused by the irony of the largest gun rights group in the nation opposing the reform.
SB 308 passed the General Assembly late on thelast day of the session.The final version removedtwo provisions that had been in the bill earlier decriminalizing the carry of weapons by licensed personsin churches and on college campuses.Under the final version, these two locations will remain illegal for carry.
The surprise came when the nation's largest and oldest gun rights lobby, the National Rifle Association,began lobbying against the bill. Earlier in the evening, the NRA had pushed legislators to add language expressly permitting the carry of weapons in airports. This language is already in a bill, SB 291, that the General Assembly passed earlier in the session. SB 291 is awaiting the Governor's signature. The NRA informed legislators that voting in favor of SB 308 without the amendment would be a "scorecard issue," meaning that the NRA would be using the vote against legislators in its ratings. In other words, legislators who voted to remove Georgia's restrictive public gathering law would be punished in ratings from the NRA.
The proposed amendment was never added to SB 308. When the NRA was rebuffed on its proposed amendment, it then began lobbying aggressively against the bill. The local civil rights group GeorgiaCarry.Org was at the Capitollobbying for SB 308 to pass.
During the Senate debate, Sen. Steve Thompsonstood in the well and read from GeorgiaCarry.Org's letter supporting SB 308. Calling GeorgiaCarry.Org's statement that it was tracking the SB 308 vote a "threat," Sen. Thompson reminded the Senators that theyhad "cover" to vote against the bill, since the NRAwas not in favor.Nan Orrock also mentioned the NRA's opposition. Even the bill'sauthor, Mitch Seabaugh,conceded that "the NRA . . . has issues with the legislation . . . I really am flummoxed . . ."
The debate was broadcast online at Georgia PublicBroadcasting, and the archives are still there, which makes it all the stranger that the NRA-ILA is now claiming that it never opposed the bill. The NRA-ILA has directly called into question the credibility of three Georgia Senators and Georgia Public Broadcasting.
From Georgia Public Broadcasting,
The NRA was not in favor of the final bill.NRA-ILA issued the following statement to an NRA member seeking an explanation.
Steve Thompson & Nan Orrock are anti-gun, D & F rated legislators. There statements are absolutely false. I would reconsider your sources.The problem with these statements are the multitude of witnesses at the Capitol that saw what the NRA was doing. Knowledge ofNRA opposition to SB 308 on Thursday evening is not limited to two Senators with low NRA ratings.
Your third “source” is invalid, as Seabaugh never stated the NRA was against SB 308.
A disappointed Chuck Turney resigned from the NRA this morning. A retired Marine now living in Georgia,Chuck was a top recruiter for the NRA, butseeing the group oppose a repeal of Georgia's public gathering law caused him to rethink his dedication to the group he had loved for decades.
Up until this morning I was a NRA Endowment Life Member and Recruiter. That 30+ year relationship ended because of the actions of the NRA last night. Now if I could only recover the time and money I have wasted all these years!TheGeorgia firearms law and politics discussion and information web site, http://www.Georgiapacking.org, removed largelinks to the NRA membership page that had been displayed prominently at the bottom of every page for years. The links were visible early this morning but are now gone.
NRA members in Georgia are hoping that the NRA will repent bypublicly encouraging the Governor to sign SB 308. In spite of Thursday's flap, GeorgiaCarry.Org has already sent mass emails to its members asking them to request that Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue sign SB 291, the NRA bill that passed earlier in the session. James Camp, a GeorgiaCarry.Org Board member and a founding member, said of the NRA's bill, "It is a good bill, and[GeorgiaCarry.Org] fully supports it. We are not playing any games over this issue. We definitely want the Governor to sign both bills."
UPDATE: The NRA-ILA alert sent recently urged members to encourage the Governor to sign both SB 291 and SB 308. The relevant text follows:
GEORGIA: Two Pro-Gun Bills Heading to the Governor! Two important pro-gun bills (Senate Bill 291 and Senate Bill 308) have both successfully passed and will now head to Governor Sonny Perdue's (R) desk for his consideration. SB291 would allow a person lawfully licensed to carry a concealed firearm the right to carry in all non-secure areas and while dropping off or picking up passengers at an airport or airport facility. Also included in the bill is a provision that would make the license renewal process much easier by basically creating an automatic renewal. Instead of the licensee having to remember to renew, the probate court will be required to send out renewals 90 days before expiration. SB308 would reform Georgia's concealed carry laws so that the concealed carry license would enable the person to carry any handgun or knife, openly or concealed. SB 308 would also allow concealed carry license holders to carry in more places by repealing the broad and vague "public gathering ban." Please begin contacting Governor Perdue today by phone at (404) 656-1776 or via email by clicking here and respectfully urge him to sign these important concealed carry reform bills.