Yesterday was sine die, the last day of the 2011-2012 legislative session, and gun rights advocates are not pleased. When the General Assembly adjourned, not a single substantive change to the gun laws in Georgia had been passed, with the most promising bill, SB 98, dying in the House Rules Committee.
Only two bills related to firearms or the right to bear arms passed this session. The first is SB 350, a bill requiring police departments to auction confiscated firearms instead of destroying them, and SB 432, a preemption law dealing with the carry of knives. Both bills will be the subject of upcoming articles in this column.
This session ended oddly. There were three groups pushing for various favorable changes to the gun laws, each with their own priorities. GeorgiaCarry.Org made a vigorous push for SB 98, as it was the only bill that focused on GeorgiaCarry.Org’s main priorities, removing places from the list of “off limits” locations in the criminal law where license holders can be arrested for carrying a weapon. GeorgiaCarry.Org succeeded in getting it past an important House Committee last week but failed to get it to the House for a floor vote. The NRA was behind the successful SB 350 and has been unsuccessfully pushing for a stronger law protecting the possession of firearms in private parking lots than it managed to pass in 2008. Georgia Gun Owners, a relatively new group at two years old that was advocating for changes in its very first session, was pushing hard for HB 679, a bill that would have removed the requirement for a license to carry a pistol. That bill had a hearing but did not make it to a vote in the first committee.
Every legislator in the House to whom I spoke blamed the NRA for the failure of SB 98, claiming that the NRA had been trying to amend it with parking lots language in the House and intended to do so in the Senate if the House passed the amended version. The local NRA lobbyist, in response to a telephone call, flatly denied any intention or attempt to do so. Telephone calls to the NRA-ILA number were met with statements that “amending the bill with parking lots is best for everyone” as late as last Thursday morning, but such calls have been met with denials since that Thursday afternoon.
NRA legislative alert emails never mentioned SB 98 in the last two weeks of the legislative session, even as it was set for a hearing, passed, and made its way onto the House Rules calendar where it waited to be set for a vote. The NRA did not succeed in passing stronger parking lots language but did succeed in passing SB 350.
Georgia Gun Owners was relatively silent at the end of the legislative session, following a defeat on the issue of carrying without a license, but it stirred a lot of anger among the House yesterday afternoon when it sent out an email containing the cell phone number of the Chief of Staff for the Speaker of the House. The email expressed anger with the Speaker of the House for participating in a “scheme to kill” all of the substantive gun bills available in the House. The email encouraged people on the email list to vent their anger by calling the staff member’s cell phone.
To voice your displeasure with Speaker Ralston’s gun bill-killing actions, please call his Chief of Staff, Spiro Amburn:
The cell phone number has been removed to protect Mr. Amburn’s privacy. The email went on to encourage Georgia Gun Owner members to “let his staff know that you are not happy that he and his Republican leadership team have effectively killed ALL pro-gun legislation in 2011-2012.”
The email had its predictable result. Angry callers flooded the cell phone and office numbers with shouting voices expressing their extreme displeasure.
A short while later, Georgia Gun Owners sent their email list another email, informing them that the angry phone calls were working and taking credit for the passage of SB 350 and SB 432 from the House Rules Committee. The email encouraged the callers to “keep it up.” The problem with the email’s claim was the first email’s timing, as the reality was that those two bills had cleared the committee an hour before the first Georgia Gun Owners email was disseminated to the recipients.
Staff at the Speaker’s office used words like “final nail in the coffin” to describe the email’s affects on SB 98.
GeorgiaCarry.Org sent an email to its members this morning stating that all “meaningful” firearms legislation had “died a slow and painful death” yesterday, without attributing any specific causes. The email encouraged members to look forward to an expected Eleventh Circuit opinion in GeorgiaCarry.Org’s pending appeal seeking to strike down the state ban on carrying weapons in places of worship. It remains to be seen what action GeorgiaCarry.Org will take with respect to the candidates it endorsed in the last election during the upcoming elections.