ATLANTA - Georgia's registered gun owners would be allowed to carry their firearms into parts of the world's busiest airport, as lawmakers shot back Tuesday at a court ruling that had long frustrated Second Amendment activists.
The House voted 120-37 to allow gun owners to carry their weapons into parts of airports throughout the state not controlled by the federal government, such as terminals and parking lots. The proposal has already been adopted by the Senate and now goes to Gov. Sonny Perdue.
The measure aims to build on a 2008 law that allowed those with permits to carry firearms on mass transit that set up a showdown between gun rights groups and Atlanta officials. The city quickly declared Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport a "gun-free zone" and warned that anyone carrying a gun there would be arrested.
Gun rights group GeorgiaCarry.org sued the city and the airport, saying it qualifies as public transportation under the new law. But a federal judge disagreed and dismissed the lawsuit, and a federal appeals panel upheld that decision a few months later.
The gun groups turned up the pressure this year on their legislative allies, who crafted a measure that specifically allowed registered gun owners carr the weapons "in an airport in any area in which the possession of firearms is not regulated by the federal government."
Critics worried it could give rise to vigilante justice and jeopardize the public's safety, but supporters of the measure hailed it as an effort to advance gun owners' constitutional rights.
"It advances our Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms," said state Rep. Katie Dempsey, a Rome Republican.
Georgia lawmakers aren't finished with gun bills yet. The House could vote on another measure that would allow gun owners to bring their firearms into some bars and the parking lots of colleges, courthouses and jails on Thursday, the final day of the 40-day legislative session.