by Robin Kemp

The Georgia Assembly is slated to take up gun-rights legislation on Monday, February 28.

Three bills in play include:

  • SB 479, which would allow separate weapons charges for each firearm that a convicted felon or first offender probationer either has in their possession or attempts to have in their possession.
  • SB 259, which would prohibit multijurisdictional databases of Weapons Carry License applicants, ban local and county governments from banning weapons discharges on properties of ten or more acres (with the owner’s or legal occupant’s permission), and require local and county governments to sell or auction off unclaimed firearms to licensed firearms dealers each year. Violators could be fined $100 and court costs. County probate courts issue Weapons Carry Licenses, It’s not clear whether the bill would allow firearms discharges on those ten-acre properties within 50 yards of a public highway, which is illegal under Georgia code.
  • SB 319 , which would allow so-called “constitutional carry” in Georgia. Specifically, the bill would allow “lawful weapons carriers” to carry rifles and other long guns in state parks, historic sites, and recreation areas, with or without a Weapons Carry License (WCL) from Georgia or from any other state. It also would do away with requirements to open-carry loaded firearms if someone does not have a WCL; keeping firearms cased; and allow people without a WCL to carry firearms in their vehicles. It also gives “lawful weapons carriers” the right to pack in government buildings and in churches and businesses that allow them to do so. Courthouses, state mental hospitals, jails, prisons, and nuclear power facilities still would not allow “lawful weapons carriers” to bring firearms or other weapons into those places, and it would still be illegal to pack within 150 feet of any polling place during elections.

On the Senate floor Thursday, Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-53) took to the well to deride Georgia Gun Owners (GGO), contrasting the group with GeorgiaCarry.org (now calling itself Georgia 2nd Amendment) and the National Rifle Association.  GGO, run by Aaron Dorr out of a Kennesaw UPS Store address, is one of several similar organizations he and his brother run in other states.  GGO calls itself “Georgia’s only No Compromise gun rights organization” and has leveraged grassroots techniques like mass-texting legislators. Their approach apparently got under Mullis’ skin.

“I rise today because I’m just damn mad,” he said:

“Let me tell you. We work on honor, morality, and ethically on our advocating for issues here. And there are people in the hall that don’t quite understand that. Now, a lot of people in this chamber are pro-Second Amendment people. We live it. My district is, uh, if they had a number-one issue, it would be about Second Amendment. In fact, if the NRA wanted to pass a bill that a baby had to put a gun in its diaper, I would be voting for it. And let me talk about the NRA, representing the National Rifle Association, honorable organization represented by [lobbyist] Raymon White here, and the Georgia Carry, which is now called the Second Amendment organization, represented by [lobbyist] Stephen Loftin, good people. We work with them. When we have an issue regarding Second Amendment, those are the two groups we call upon. Not that other group, the Georgia Gun Owners. They’re led by people that are just trying to raise money off of the lies that they talk about members in this chamber. Issues in this chamber! Not true.”

Mullis accused GGO of “[invading] privacy on a lot of members here, and they’re people that they’re trying to stir up by telling just the blatant lies out there….But those people that are out in the hall just simply lying, to try to stir up trouble, they need to find another profession. And by the way, they’re lobbying without a lobbyist badge, too, and I think that’s illegal, immoral, impractical, and they should be persecuted for that. [Aaron Dorr, Alex Dorr and Chris Dorr are all registered Georgia lobbyists for GGO this session. However, a check of state lobbyist registrations at the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission (“formerly known as the State Ethics Commission”) shows Alex Dorr was registered February 24, the same day Mullis took to the well.] If you’re gonna be here–persecuted and prosecuted. Persecuted would be nailed on a cross, I think, wouldn’t it? Now I’m not necessarily against that either, by the way. But if you’re gonna be down here, be respectable, and be honorable. If you can’t do that, if your mama didn’t teach you that, you need to go home. And she needs a refresher course with ya.”

Emphasizing repeatedly that he and other senators were “here to represent people,” Mullis made it clear that “any Second Amendment bill, it’ll be on the floor when we prepare the floor for the right time for a big debate, so everybody can have their say. But until it happens, you people who are listening to ’em, don’t drink the Kool-Aid. They’re misfeeding you, and I would suggest that probably things in that Kool-Aid that you might–that will hurt your health. Mentally.”

Mullis reiterated that he would only do business with the NRA and Georgia Carry: “That other group, I don’t even know what their name is much, ’cause I don’t listen to them. I listen to my constituency and other folks.”

On its website Thursday, the NRA-ILA (NRA’s lobbying arm) stated:

…there is a group telling its members that Senate Bill 319, a Senate version of constitutional carry, is being held up in that chamber by the Republicans. That is false. Thanks to your efforts encouraging the Senate Rules Committee to advance constitutional carry, the committee is expected to pass Senate Bill 319 today, along with Senate Bill 259, a bill enhancing preemption. The bills should receive floor votes on Monday, February 28th.”

Georgia Carry also urged support for SB 259 and SB 319 while the bills were still in committee:

SB259 by Sen. Jeff Mullis and SB319 by Sen. Jason Anavitarte are still on track and have incredible momentum in the Senate. The Rules Committee will soon consider these bills so please call and e-mail members of the Committee and urge them to “Shield the 2nd” by backing SB259 and SB319!

Today, GGO responded on its website:

If you’ve missed our recent email alerts and our video updates via social media, you might not know that after GGO members HAMMERED on the Rules Committee for the last week, they finally passed the bill through committee last night!

There is a lot of back story on how this happened.

And the story of Rules Chairman Jeff Mullis trying to intimidate and silence Georgia Gun Owners using threats of CRIMINAL CHARGES against us on the floor yesterday (for daring to have gun owners call the Rules Committee) is a hilarious story that we’ll tell soon.

and on its Twitter feed:

GGO told its members, “I know that you’ve been emailing the legislature a lot recently. But most of your previous emails were to the Judiciary and Rules Committee members — not the entire State Senate.”

The group accused the Georgia Assembly of not being truly pro-gun, adding, “given the extreme weakness we saw in the Rules Committee over the last three weeks, we can’t take anything for granted!”

It also railed against “Michael Bloomberg’s team of commies,” “Georgia’s bought-and-paid for leftist media outlets,” and “the radical left applying extreme pressure right now in an effort to crush this beautiful legislation.”

GGO says crime has decreased in states that have passed “constitutional” carry. However, it does not cite any evidence to back that claim on their website.

Everytown for Gun Safety, which lobbies against “gun violence,” cited studies that found crime rates increased 11% and homicides increased 13% to 15% in states that passed “constitutional” carry legislation.

The studies Everytown cites were published in the American Journal of Public Health (read here) and the National Bureau of Economic Research (read here). Their conclusions:

AJPH: “…this study suggests that there is a robust association between shall-issue laws and higher rates of firearm homicides. The trend toward increasingly permissive concealed-carry laws is inconsistent with public opinion, which tends to oppose the carrying of guns in public. Our findings suggest that these laws may also be inconsistent with the promotion of public safety.”

NBER: “The best available evidence using different statistical approaches—panel data regression and synthetic control—with varying strengths and shortcomings and with different model specifications all suggest that the net effect of state adoption of RTC laws is a substantial increase in violent crime.”

We’ve asked both GGO and Mullins for comment and will update with any new information.

Dave Williams

Dave Williams is Capitol Beat bureau chief.

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