published Monday, February 14th, 2011

Georgia: More doors open to guns?

Georgia gun legislation

* HB 55: Would allow licensed owners with permits to carry a gun on college campuses.

* HB 54: Would allow licensed owners with permits to carry a gun in any place of worship.

* HB58: Would allow retired judges to carry guns.

* SR1: Would promote increased public awareness of the dangers of celebratory gunfire.

* SB26: Would prohibit any additional limitations on carrying a gun during states of emergency.

Gun owners would be allowed to carry their firearms in churches and in college classrooms under legislation that, if approved, would extend gun rights further in Georgia.

It remains to be seen whether House Bills 54 and 55 have a prayer of being heard this legislative session, but some North Georgia pastors said they wouldn't be opposed to church members with permits carrying guns into worship.

"The people with carry permits are usually law-abiding and extensively safe," said Travis Hutchinson, pastor of Highlands Presbyterian Church in LaFayette, Ga.

He said it seems unwise to keep churches as gun-free zones because members wouldn't be able to protect themselves in the event of foul play.

But other authorities argue that Georgia gun permit laws are lax and not just anyone with a permit should be allowed to bring a gun to church.

"I would be in favor of trained ... selected people allowed to carry a weapon," said Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson. "But 50 people with a gun strapped to their side in church isn't what we're looking for."

Legislation approved by the Georgia General Assembly last year clarified where it is legal for licensed gun owners to carry firearms. The law removed the prohibition on guns at public gatherings, but it stipulated that guns were banned in certain places including churches, schools and bars without the owner's permission.

Allowing guns in churches was taken out of the bill to ensure it passed, said Rep. Jay Neal, R-LaFayette.

Several North Georgia lawmakers said they favor extending the carry rights approved last year.

"By taking the guns away from the ... law-abiding citizens, we're telling the criminals that we are disarming ourselves, and go ahead and take advantage of us," said Neal, a former pastor.

But advocacy groups that fight for stricter gun laws argue that just because a person has a permit to carry a concealed weapon doesn't make him or her a law-abiding citizen.

"This idea that folks with concealed weapons are less likely to respond emotionally ... is a misnomer," said Alice Johnson, director for Georgians for Gun Safety.

Even some of those who say they wouldn't object to guns in church have their limits.

"I wouldn't be opposed to any men in membership having guns," said Rick Spence, pastor of New Life Baptist Church in Dalton. "[But] I would be wary if [just] anyone came in with a gun."


Rep. Bobby Franklin, R-Marietta, who has also filed bills to prohibit mandatory vaccinations and to eliminate the state income tax, introduced House Bills 54 and 55 in late January. The bills were assigned to the Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. Franklin didn't return calls seeking comment last week.

It's up to committee Chairman Rich Golick, R-Smyrna, to decide whether the bills should be heard this year.

"We passed significant gun legislation last year," Golick said. "It may be the fact that we may hold off addressing gun laws this session."

While gun rights also were extended on college campuses last year to allow permit holders to keep their weapons in their vehicles, this year's legislation would allow students and faculty to take their guns into classrooms and campus buildings.

State higher education officials have opposed bills to loosen gun laws on campuses, arguing that guns and college students are a risky mix.

Dalton State College President John Schwenn said he doesn't comment on pending legislation, but that the university's position of not allowing guns on campus remains.

John Monroe, an attorney with, a gun-rights advocacy group, said students should be allowed to defend themselves because more and more violent incidents are occurring on college campuses across the country.

But Ricky Green, a Dalton State College senior, said he would be afraid of a student having a gun in class.

"I would feel much more comfortable with security personnel rather then somebody getting their shotgun out of the truck and pumping lead around," Green said.

While Golick hasn't decided whether the gun legislation will be heard this year, he said one thing is for sure: "These are issues that will come up again."

Follow Joy Lukachick on Twitter

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
Echo said...

"The people with carry permits are usually law-abiding and extensively safe," said Travis Hutchinson, pastor of Highlands Presbyterian Church in LaFayette, Ga.

Hi Travis - Permit holders are not usually law-abiding, they are proven 100% to be law-abiding as documented by the mandatory criminal background check which the permit applicant has to pay for. If they violate any major laws after they earn the permit, they can lose the permit.

"I wouldn't be opposed to any men in membership having guns," said Rick Spence, pastor of New Life Baptist Church in Dalton. "[But] I would be wary if [just] anyone came in with a gun."

Hi Rick - Do you mean just men Rick or women too? Does your church have collection plates with credit card readers? How much money does it take to buy a membership to commune with God at the New Life Baptist Church in Dalton? Is there a market for a 2nd amendment upgrade package with your church membership? It could become an additional profit center for your tax-exempt church.

But Ricky Green, a Dalton State College senior, said he would be afraid of a student having a gun in class.

"I would feel much more comfortable with security personnel rather then somebody getting their shotgun out of the truck and pumping lead around," Green said.

Hi Ricky - You slay me. You're a college senior? Is Dalton State College an accredited institution? Can I get a degree there in Carpetology? Appliantology (Zappa)? Can I get my Dalton State College PhD online?

Four years of higher education and you're gonna put more trust in some $9.35/hr guy with a GED to protect you than your own classmates? If there was as you say, a "security personnel" guy like that, I am certain he hates college guys like you. He'd lock himself and his gun in the john and listen to your erudite classmates get wet while he smoked a cigarette. Suggestion: Google "Kent State".

February 14, 2011 at 1:41 a.m.
dude_abides said...

Hi Echo, You hate: Travis Hutchinson, pastor of Highlands Presbyterian Church in LaFayette, Ga., Rick Spence, pastor of New Life Baptist Church in Dalton, Ricky Green, a Dalton State College senior, Dalton State College (including Ricky's erudite classmates), the carpet industry, the appliance industry, and some $9.35/hr guy with a GED (all security personnel). That's scary. Suggestion: Google Tucson.

February 14, 2011 at 7:30 a.m.
inquiringmind said...

The comments by "echo" are extremely valuable to us but not in the way he(?) expects. Their patently offensive nature demonstrates why it is a good reason to abandon this proposed change in the law because it is a BAD idea with folks running around with his(?) attitude.

If you want to lug a gun around right now you can do it within the loose and irregularly enforced laws. I know this is very important for the conspiracy addicts out there who think someone is going to try to create the United States of North America, or the Red Chinese are going to invade therefore they have to be prepared to take the law into their own hands in an unconstitutional action (so says the NRA), dig into the foxholes and defend God, country and motherhood.

However, there is a good argument dating since the founding fathers that the amendment in question does in fact pertain only to armed militia not individuals, but I realize the gun nuts will just go ballistic over this, so please let's not argue that here.

The real issue is the theological perspective of the pastor at Highland Pres. in LaFayette. What has Christianity sunk to for a minister to espouse such an attitude? This fellow says, "it seems unwise to keep churches as gun-free zones because members wouldn't be able to protect themselves in the event of foul play (i.e., not be able to kill someone who threatened their safety)." Such a comment is profoundly in conflict with the teachings of Christianity and he realizes there is NO argument out of that devilish position except repentance.


February 14, 2011 at 8:38 a.m.
hotdiggity said...

""I wouldn't be opposed to any men in membership having guns," said Rick Spence, pastor of New Life Baptist Church in Dalton. "[But] I would be wary if [just] anyone came in with a gun."

No women allowed to carry guns in your church? Church "membership" required to carry a gun in your church? Too funny.

You nailed it Echo.

Perhaps the churches could upgrade the visage of the angel Michael holding a Glock instead of a flaming sword? Replace his armor with a bullet proof vest?

I'm sure the church members huddling in their sanctum sanctorum will feel even more safe from the evils of the world with their 9MM strapped to their breast.

Try reading the book "Ricochet" by Richard Feldman. The NRA is leading you around by the nose while enriching themselves and the gun manufacturers.

February 14, 2011 at 9:32 a.m.
nowfedup said...

Well here is a plain English Ver or GA gun laws, now someone please tell me where the "well qualified" to "defend" us all is located. Seems a lot of folks running about with guns that quite possibly never fired them, and that is very scary. But if GA legislature wants to get NRA money, let's make sure the law allows folks to carry guns anywhere, to include courts, legislature, Gov buildings etc. Not good enough to limit this to places where citizens gather, but not those that pass the laws. So read and tell us all how comfortable you will feel next time you see some "qualified" with a gun, as very possible they never fired one. A awful lot of lies going on about how great it is to have some gunnie running about who some thinks are "experts", more so a handgun notoriously hard to shoot well. So I ask, exactly how many rounds must be fired to qualify and how many every year to be current?

February 14, 2011 at 10:01 a.m.
Pass_it_on said...

The big white elephant in the middle of the living room that no Democrat, Libertarian or Republican wants to discuss is the lack of mental health resources and its respective funding.

Mental health issues do not win election campaigns or create emotionally passioned articles that sell newspapers.

Every case of a high profile shooting that has occured in the last several decades has been committed by an acknowleged mentally disturbed individual. It has been documented time and again how the mentally disturbed individual "fell into the cracks" of our system.

The issue is not gun ownership or concealed weapons carry. The issue is what are we going to do to recognize these individuals and see they have the proper care they need.

The law already states you cannot own a firearm if you are mentally disturbed. We do not need more laws. We need to enforce the ones we have and provide the resources to deal with the people that need help.

Funny how labeling everyone that owns firearms as a gun nut achieves the emotionally passioned paranoia needed to create a totally baseless sensationalistic issue.

February 14, 2011 at 12:35 p.m.
moon4kat said...

Does the Georgia Legislature permit spectators to carry guns into the State House?? Tennessee does not; guns are not allowed in the TN State House. All those right-wing politicians who are so hot to loosen restrictions on guns are hypocrites when it comes to their own territory. They don't want to risk an angry citizen blasting them away.

February 14, 2011 at 12:39 p.m.
nowfedup said...

Noted the echo and buds kind of overlooked the FACT there is NO requirement to even know how to load a gun much less hit anything with the GA carry law. ALL you do is have judge sign off on form and background check. At least with a car you have to pass driving test. FRIGHTENING to know folks running about with up to 30 RD clips have NO requirement to prove they can hit anything. Kind of gives whole new perspective on "Qualified shooter" protecting us all..

February 14, 2011 at 12:55 p.m.
nucanuck said...

It's hard to know what to make of a society so bound up in fear that it thinks hand guns might be part of a positive solution to anything.

Hand guns would seem to be symptoms of deeper societal problems and probably represent a sort of abdication or acknowledgement of defeat by those problems.

To me,hand guns sure seem like an upside down way to build a better world.

February 14, 2011 at 1:32 p.m.
Musicman375 said...

To me, hand guns sure seem like a great way to make some fool of a criminal with a gun of his own think twice about pointing his in my direction.

February 14, 2011 at 2:16 p.m.
nucanuck said...


The hand gun self defense application people envision almost never happens. Continued proliferation of handguns simply increases the unintended consequences.

I believe that rising hand gun ownership will some day be recognized as a barometer of societal decline.

February 14, 2011 at 3:54 p.m.
Sailorman said...


It only has to happen once - ask Alprova. Here's one for you right here in Chattanooga:

And here's a bunch more:

Wouldn't argue with you a bit about societal decline. I prefer to at least give myself a chance. Without getting into the whole gun debate again (that's been done to a fare thee well), but it's not the fault of firearms.

The more laws they pass, the sillier the whole situation becomes.

February 14, 2011 at 4:36 p.m.
mella_yella said...

Most all your mass shootings and murder suicides were carried out by once deemed "law abiding" citizens.

February 14, 2011 at 4:38 p.m.
jmcaul said...

What business is it of the Walker County Sheriff what people do in (private) churches??? As long as it is considered legal activity in other places why should churches be prohibited from allowing people to carry? If a church does NOT want it's members carrying, that's THEIR business, not the sheriffs. Such backwards thinking!

February 14, 2011 at 5:46 p.m.
jmcaul said...

mella_yella: NOW we're talking! I say lock EVERYBODY up because we never know who's going to snap next or why. You can even head up the 'pre-crime' bureau because you're obviously so smart!

February 15, 2011 at 10:34 a.m.
Wilder said...

There are many legitimate reasons for law abiding citizens to carry a handgun. For example, if you enjoy walking on wooded trails for exercise, you will invariably encounter stupid people with unleashed dogs.

I don't care how sweet THERE pit bull is, getting bitten by it, shouldn't be their option. If you prefer to negotiate with a vicious dog, good luck to you.

February 15, 2011 at 11:15 p.m.
Echo said...

This is a country founded by people who trusted each other to be purveyors of what is right.In many parts of the country there was and still is a belief that the guy next to you with a gun is not a threat, he is a person with the same vigilance and courage as you for civic and personal threats. Some of you anyway.

Some of you others put your faith in lobbyist corrupted politicians and their chicken little scare tactics. They ride in armed motorcades and walk alongside personal bodyguards at taxpayer expense. They have no business telling me how to defend my family or property.

You think banning a lump of metal is an answer to the evil that lies in the dark hearts of a few men. You are the real threat. I can replace a wallet or a car more easily than I can replace an overbearing government. Your childish mentality and timid resolve is a greater threat to our society than my gun will ever be. Men of greater intellect than you will ever comprehend made decisions for our country that cannot be reversed.

My America still contains men and women who for the same basic reasons as in the year 1775 are ready to hand their guns over to home-bred tyrants - starting with the bullets at about 300 yards. If that idea repels you, go to Canada where sick people wait for a life saving MRI for 6 months because "The Crown" says so.

There are hundreds of thousands of us in Tennessee armed every day and you don't even know who we are. In this state and nationwide, the "gun nut permit holders" and "shootouts in the streets" and the "mistaken shootings" never materialized. All lies from those who fear We The People.

You sheeple think times have changed. Human nature has changed little. This may come as a surprise to you but even back in 1775 there were idiots lacking American citizenship who wanted to control "bitter clingers" who believe in God. It happened again in 1939. It's happening today in America.

My money is on the clingers.

Such was the case when a disturbed man who pulled out a knife in a Knoxville Walmart last year and threated a woman in the store. A 21 year old permit carrier drew his gun and held the attacker off until police arrived.

It is a burden, a responsibility, and I no more want or expect a gunfight than a car wreck but I wear my seatbelt too.

February 16, 2011 at 1:41 a.m.
Echo said...

What nucanuck? Nowfedup? Nothing? Did my superior logic just crush your feeble, knee jerk reactionary brainfart ideas away? It's not me. It history. Qaddafi would be staring out of a bodybag if his populace was armed. Instead, that country will devolve into a protracted civil war. People are being shot with 14.5mm anti-aircraft weapons. You don't even know what that is. You don't know American History or the role that James Madison played in the second amendment. You don't know that the KKK was the first gun control organization and their goal was to disarm blacks. You are on the wrong side of history and you don't even know it.

You are the problem with this country. People like you tolerate the intolerable. People like you treat violent predators like victims and victims like meaningless statistics. The last election was the response to the insanity that limousine liberals like Geroge Soros have inflicted on We The People.

Don't disparage the permit holders. They are guaranteed not to be felons, drunk drivers, dopers, wife beaters, deadbeat dads, and about 50 other minor crimes which is more than can be said of many of our police and politicians.

Come through my doorway at 3am, there will be no misjudgment on my part. I will be waiting with a flashlight and a loaded gun. You better have entered my house drunk and by accident because if you have a anything in your hand besides a beer or keys only God will help you. Most permit holders can hit a salad plate at 20 yards, I can at 50. Hold one over your chest and see that a bad guy is going to have a bad night robbing my house. My wife does not like handguns, she prefers a police shotgun with #4 buckshot. Try getting through her to our kids room. Help yourself to one of her excellent cookies as you walk into our house, she'll blast it through your spine. Government gone amuck? Civil crisis? that's rifle territory. We got em.

We drive a minivan. We shop at Walmart and Target. I invest what we save. We pay taxes. Chances are I'm better educated, better traveled, and earn better than you do so wipe that self satisfied smirk off your face while you think you are so enlightened. Some paroled piece of human garbage or a gutless politician shall not threaten my family or their dreams. Your fear of your self defense is your problem. As for me, I trust my neighbors and my countrymen they are descendants of a special breed. I know if the SHTF they would stand shoulder to shoulder with me to stop those who would try to ruin what makes our country great. Maybe you should try growing a pair and becoming part of the solution. Even a dumb junkie knows that a TV set is not worth taking a bullet for. Same for a dumb dictator.

March 1, 2011 at 1:24 a.m.
chet123 said...

Echo....Great research... thanks for reaffirming my statement 2week ago(the church)LOL LOL....The Churches are like a stealth Bomber on most our social issues...they play a big part of inciting framing the social issues we live with...while at the same time pretending they doing the "LORD WORK"....where is the teaching of christ when pastor makes comment like that...LOL LOL

April 20, 2011 at 11:35 a.m.
chet123 said...

Maybe some of you hypocrite can take a lesson from the AMISH people......

April 20, 2011 at 11:37 a.m.
please login to post a comment

Other National Articles

videos »         

photos »         

e-edition »

400 East 11th St., Chattanooga, TN 37403
General Information (423) 756-6900
Copyright, Permissions, Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, Ethics policy - Copyright ©2014, Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
This document may not be reprinted without the express written permission of Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc.