Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Tuesday signed a bill into law that immediately allows permitless handgun carry for most residents in the state.
The measure, Senate Bill 319, dubbed the Georgia Constitutional Carry Act, passed the legislature April 1 mainly along party lines.
It allows residents to carry a concealed a firearm without a license, with the exception of people convicted of a felony, or those have been treated for certain mental health issues within the past five years.
The Republican governor said at a signing ceremony that the new law allows Georgians "to protect themselves without having to have permission from your state government.”
“The Constitution of the United States gives us that right, not the government,” Kemp said.
Republicans argue that requiring a carry permit, which costs about $75, infringes on Second Amendment gun rights. They also cite permitting delays in some Georgia counties during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Georgia state Republican Sen. Jason Anavitarte, a sponsor of the bill, said during the signing ceremony, “Today was a victory for the safety, security and constitutional rights of hardworking Georgians.”
“This bill is about self-protection and self-empowerment,” said Anavitarte. “It’s about disincentivizing criminals and empowering law-abiding citizens to defend themselves and their families.”
Georgia Democrats held a rally on Tuesday in protest of the legislation, which removes the background check for a permit to carry a loaded or concealed handgun in public. Democrats note that more than 5,000 people applied for permits last year and were blocked, and say police and the public will now face the danger of some of those people carrying guns.
“Yes, I believe in the Second Amendment,” said Sen. Donzella James, an Atlanta Democrat. “But why are we spreading the access to guns to everyone?”
Georgia is the 25th state with such a law, and the 10th added in the past two years.
“People don’t have to carry if they don’t want to,” Kemp told reporters on Tuesday. “But this is a constitutional authority that people have, and they certainly shouldn’t have a piece of paper from the government to be able to legally carry a weapon.”