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Whats next for Georgia?
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The debate surrounding second amendment rights received national attention a few weeks ago as the U.S. Senate voted down a bill that would require expanded background checks for firearm purchases.

Gun control activists moved quickly to speak out about Congress' blatant disregard for the safety of children, while Pres. Obama publicly expressed his disappointment in the vote by calling it a "shameful day" for Washington, D.C.

When all was said and done, the U.S. Senators who voted against SB 649 did so because it imposed substantial burdens on law-abiding citizens - not criminals.

This isn't the last we will hear about gun control on the federal level; in fact, I believe it is just the beginning. The discussion will ride forward on unconfirmed statistics and overlooked rules; such as 100 percent of firearm sales between dealers and non-dealer buyers are already subject to background check requirements.

Recent tragic events have turned the topic of second amendment rights into one that's filled with emotion and very few facts. It is very important to have conversations on how we can prevent these national tragedies from happening again in the future.

However, measures to address the underlying problems that cause gun violence are not being addressed while blind proposals to ban or restrict sales are on the table. When bills are passed quickly in an effort to just "do something" (see Obamacare), there is often a large number of unintended consequences.

The second amendment reads as follows: A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Critics of the second amendment have spent a large amount of time deconstructing this language in an effort to weaken the argument for the right to bear arms. Many make the claim that since there is no longer a militia presence in the United States, there is no need to bear arms.

Others claim the second amendment was never about the individual possession of weapons without restrictions; instead, it stemmed from concern that a federal army could become too powerful without an explicit statement that states should build and keep their own citizen militias.

In 2008, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case defined - for the first time ever - that the second amendment does extend to the individual right to keep and bear arms.

In District of Columbia vs. Heller, it was ruled that the second amendment "codified a pre-existing right" therefore "protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home."

To further support the ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court referenced three draft proposals of the Second Amendment that openly called for the individual's right to bear arms.

However, District of Columbia vs. Heller did not rule that second amendment rights weren't subject to rules or regulations.

In the ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court stated that "the right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose."

In other words, the U.S. Supreme Court acknowledged the state's role in setting the rules for concealed carry and said that the ruling should not be used to loosen restrictions on the possession of firearms by the mentally ill or convicted felons.

This is why several states, including Georgia, are exercising their 10th Amendment right to protect Second Amendment rights. Bills to clarify and determine means of gun regulation in individual states are now under consideration across the nation.

State legislators are recognizing that such overbearing and complex federal regulations could cause law-abiding individuals to be punished while criminals are still allowed to illegally gain control of firearms.

Furthermore, they are also realizing that the ability to lawfully carry a firearm in order to protect one's self and family could be the key to preventing another school or movie theatre shooting.

Senate Bill 101 was one of the many bills concerning firearms introduced during the 2013 Georgia legislative session.

As passed by the Senate, SB 101 would remove burdensome reporting requirements for firearms dealers and recognize out-of-state weapons carry licenses in Georgia.

In addition, it would also allow persons between the ages of 18-21 to possess a weapon carry license provided they have completed basic military training, are active duty or without a dishonorable discharge from any U.S. military branch.

Lastly, the bill would have strengthened confidentiality by prohibiting the creation of a database of firearms license holders.

Various parts of SB 101 were later added to House Bill 512 in an effort to pass a comprehensive weapons carry bill. HB 512 sought to expand and clarify where a gun could be carried - including churches, bars, government buildings and college campuses. However, after months of discussion and deliberation, neither bill received final passage on Sine Die.

As the clock ticked closer to midnight, HB 512 stalled due to disagreements over a provision that would have allowed guns to be carried on the grounds of Georgia's public and technical colleges with a valid weapons permit.

As a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, I have consistently supported measures to restore the rights of Georgia gun owners; specifically those concerning legal weapons carry permits. There is still hope for HB 512 and SB 101.

Right now, the bills are "on the table" for 2014 since we are in the middle of a biennial term and the conversation on how to improve both bills will continue throughout the rest of 2013. I will not allow our Second Amendment rights to be defeated.

It is important to me to hear from my constituents about this controversial, but significant, topic.

I invite you to call my office or send an e-mail at any time with your questions and concerns.

Sen. Steve Gooch serves as chairman of the transportation committee. He represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties. He may be reached at (404) 656-9221 or via e-mail at