current affairs

Georgia’s Guns Everywhere law proves divisive

Guns, Guns, everywhere! On 1st July the ‘Guns Everywhere’ legislation came into force in the American state of Georgia.

Guns, Guns, everywhere! On 1st July the ‘Guns Everywhere’ legislation came into force in the American state of Georgia. Officially known as the Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014, it allows anyone with a permit to carry a concealed weapon into, ‘bars, churches, school zones, government buildings and certain parts of airports.’

It prohibits police from stopping people and asking them to prove they have a permit and the list residents with a permit will no longer be maintained. So it’s probably unsurprising that this law had support from and was well received by America’s pro gun lobbyists.

The Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, was enshrined into the American Constitution in 1791 and like many other laws at that time mirrored much of English law. Although, in the last 200 odd years, English law has moved on in recognition of the fact that since 1791, gun technology has progressed somewhat. 

No longer is the Blunderbuss, the 18th century equivalent of a shotgun, the weapon of choice as it was in 1791. Now gun owners have a far wider selection of weapons available, with far greater carnage causing capabilities, just ask those affected by any of America’s infamous mass shootings, the ones you can ask of course, because, well, a lot of them are dead.

The full wording of the Second Amendment reads: ‘A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed’ and it is this that is cited by gun lobbyists whenever gun control is discussed. 

It is a constitutional right and woe betide anyone who voices the opinion that it might be time for this antiquated legislation to progress in the same way gun technology and indeed other legislation has. After all, America doesn’t set it’s road laws based on the capabilities of a horse and cart, the mode of transport available in 1791.  Similar outrage is received by those who question the interpretation of the wording of the amendment. 

When read fully, it canbe interpreted to mean that the people as a whole, rather than individuals, should be entitled to be armed via a well regulated army. It makes sense, newly independent America would still be feeling the post civil war volatility, and a need to defend the country as a whole with an army would be more efficient than individuals running around with guns.

Powerful Lobby Groups

But who are the gun lobbyists?  The most well known group is the National Rifle Association, or the NRA, founded in 1871, to ‘promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis.’  

Over the years, whilst still promoting skilled shooting and running training and safety programmes, they have branched out to become the most vocal protectors of the Second Amendment, forming the Institute for Legislative Action, ILA, in 1975 to politically defend the Second Amendment.

They claim to have 4.5 million members and are one of the richest interest groups in Washington, spending more than $25m in the 2012 election cycle on advertisements mostly supporting Republican candidates and opposing Democrats. 

Furthermore, 88% of Republicans and 11% of Democrats in both houses of Congress have received a contribution from the NRA during their career. They are seen as the major political force defending the right to bear arms, even giving US politicians a grade based on how they have voted on gun control measures.

The NRA aren’t alone, GeorgiaCarry.Org who lobbied in favour of the ‘Guns Everywhere’ legislation, refer to themselves as ‘Georgia’s no compromise voice for gun owners.’

They believe the Second Amendment doesn’t just apply tocertain locations or peoplebut that it should apply everywhere and to everyone without qualification and there are many otherindividuals and groups whohold the same view both locally and nationally across America.

Not Universally Popular

Whilst the pro gun lobby still has massive support in America, there are signs that not all residents of Georgia are in favour of the new legislation. Georgia’s law enforcement and county commissioners, amongst many others, opposed the new legislation. 

American retailer Target said they would not allow customers to carry weaponsin storeas it is, ‘at odds with the family-friendly shopping and work experience we strive to create.’

In addition, the Reverend Raphael Warnock, senior pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Reverend Martin Luther King’s mother was shot and killed in 1974, said he didn’t know of a single pastor in Georgia who lobbied for guns to be brought into their churches. 

While the pro gun lobby is still incredibly well supported in the US, the image of all Americans being proud gun owners, outraged at the thought of any gun control is perhaps the best piece of pro gun propaganda they’ve managed to create.

What do you think? Have your say in the comments section below.