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New state law permits firearms at church if house of worship OK with it

On July 1, Georgians with concealed firearm licenses will be able to carry their weapons in areas that formerly barred them.
HB 60 expands the law to places like outside the screening area at airports that are open to visitors. The law also allows school districts to set rules for their employees carrying firearms at schools – not anyone can carry at a school, but staff can be approved.
Places of worship can allow firearms inside, but the law makes it an opt-in policy, meaning the leader of the church has to say it’s OK to bring in a concealed firearm.
Pastor George Pevey of the First Community Christian Church said this law was like an old Western movie where cowboys “came to church and had to check their weapons in the back.”
“I don’t think this is thought through very well,” he said. “There needs to be more permits issued and qualifying conditions.”
Pevey said if the law was opt out, meaning church leaders would have to bar concealed firearms he would have followed the law.
“If the law says it’s permissible, it depends on who brought it in,” he said. “What’s their purpose to bring it in? If it’s a concealed weapon and I don’t know we won’t search or anything.”
Clint Williams, senior pastor of Believers Church, said he would review the law with the church’s board.
“I think there are going to be bigger issues, like insurance, in general,” he said. “For us, we’re just going to have to review it and go from there.”
Williams said the church would have a decision by the law’s implementation day.
Georgia may have one of the most expansive carry laws in the United States after this, but the state still requires no education about carrying a concealed firearm before receiving one.
There are at least 360 concealed carry permit holders in the county since 2013, and the only process the permit holders went through was a background check, getting their fingerprints on record, and paying a fee to the Screven County Probate Court.
The Screven County Sheriff’s Office is already educating their deputies on the legislature’s expanded carry law, Public Information Officer Brett Dickerson said. In addition to enforcing the law, he said the sheriff’s office is exploring the possibility of holding classes for citizens on Georgia’s carry laws and safe carrying practices for those who hold a concealed carry permit.
There are 28 states with carry laws that applicants must demonstrate knowledge of firearm use or go through courses related to carrying a concealed firearm. South Carolina, Florida, Arkansas, Kentucky, and North Carolina are all such nearby states requiring some form of education or demonstration according to SmartGunLaws.org.
The expansion still has misdemeanor punishments for those caught carrying in a place where the firearm is barred. There is also a stipulation that the concealed carrier can leave the premises when caught and not be charged with a misdemeanor depending on the situation.
In the early stages of developing HB60 bars were allowed to have firearm carriers. This measure has since been dropped on the final draft that was signed by Governor Nathan Deal.
Opponents of the bill say this makes Georgia a fun state to poke fun at.
“It makes us the laughingstock of the nation because it’s a silly bill,” said State Representative Mickey Stephens, a Democrat from Savannah, in a New York Times article by Alan Blinder. “I want to know what kind of religion these guys practice that they have to carry a gun to church.”