Canton rep. signs onto firearms bill
by Joshua Sharpe
jsharpe@cherokeetribune.com
March 13, 2013 12:00 AM | 1748 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A freshman Cherokee County representative was among six House representatives to sponsor a bill, which has passed the Georgia House of Representatives and aims to allow licensed gun owners to take their weapons into churches, restaurants, bars and other privately-owned places.

The Safe Carry Protection Act passed through the House last Thursday by more than a 2-to-1 margin and now must pass a vote in the state Senate.

Rep. Mandi Ballinger (R-Canton), of the new 23rd District, counted as the fourth sponsor of the bill and described it Tuesday as an “expansion of gun rights” putting more power in the hands of the people.

Other sponsors on the bill include Reps. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper), John Meadows (R-Calhoun), Jay Roberts (R-Ocilla), Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) and Dustin Hightower (R-Carrollton).

If passed into law, the bill will give private business and property owners the option of allowing guns on their properties or inside their establishments.

“This is a disempowerment of the government and empowerment for private businesses,” Ballinger said.

The new law will not require private property owners to allow guns on their property.

This is not a “mandate,” the freshman representative said.

“It just gives them (private property owners) the option. We’re not going to tell Reinhardt University, ‘You have to have let people have guns here,’” she said.

The act also outlines certain persons who will not be able to take advantage of the new law, should it pass.

These persons include convicted felons and anyone who has been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility. Anyone who has been voluntarily committed, however, will not necessarily be disqualified, Ballinger said.

“We didn’t feel like people should be penalized for seeking help,” Ballinger said of citizens who have seen the need for mental help and sought it out.

Those applying for a gun permit will be required to pass a check into whether or not they have been involuntarily committed, a background check and fingerprinting, Ballinger said.

Overall, though, she said, the application process won’t change much.

In the present draft of the bill, Ballinger said, there is some “ambivalence” as to whether or not firearms will be allowed in courtrooms or courthouses.

That issue will be clarified in the Senate and courthouses and courtrooms will remain gun-free zones, Ballinger assured.

Reps. Michael Caldwell (R-Woodstock), Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs), Calvin Hill (R-Canton) and John Carson (R-Marietta), who all represent some part of Cherokee County in the House, also voted to pass the bill.

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