Local News

January 26, 2014

Lawmakers take aim at gun restrictions

After an unsuccessful push last year to legalize carrying a gun on college campuses under certain conditions, two local lawmakers are leading the charge to relax gun restrictions in other areas.

State Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, said he plans to introduce a bill this week that would decriminalize the act of carrying a gun inside a bar or place of worship for someone otherwise qualified to have a firearm. The draft bill would also allow individual boards of education to set policies allowing trained and approved teachers and other employees to carry guns into schools.

Jasperse, whose district includes part of Murray County, said he understands criminals won’t abide by gun restrictions, but he wants to make sure the Legislature isn’t penalizing “good Georgians.” As the bill’s main sponsor, Jasperse said he also included provisions aimed at keeping state-issued weapons permits out of the hands of those with known mental issues.

Measures already on the books detail a process for probate judges to check applicants’ mental histories if they have been involuntarily committed to an institution within the past few years, but this bill would require that that information be updated more quickly. It would also prohibit issuing a weapons permit to someone who has mounted an insanity defense to a crime, or who has in court been adjudicated not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity.

State Rep. John Meadows, R-Calhoun, was on a committee assigned to reach a compromise between House and Senate versions of a similar bill that didn’t go through last year, and he said he backs Jasperse’s new bill and hopes removing the controversial campus carry provision will help it pass. Last year’s bill was passed by House members and remains in the Senate where officials said rules allow for it to be revived this session.

That bill from last year would have allowed college presidents to choose whether to allow guns on their campuses, but Meadows said legal counsel advised lawmakers that would run afoul of Georgia’s Constitution, which stipulates only the state has authority to decide how to regulate firearms. A measure allowing guns on all campuses would have been too controversial to get through, he said.

Under the new bill, Jasperse said, the state will recognize bars and places of worship as private property and simply back out of prohibiting firearms on the premises. Those property owners would still have the right to order someone carrying a gun to leave. If the person stays, they could be charged with trespassing.

The proposed changes has been met with mixed reaction.

Dalton State College senior Russell Smith, a history major from Calhoun, said he feels better knowing guns — outside of the hands of police — will remain banned from campus.

“We do have public safety officers on campus that do carry guns, and it’s their job to protect us,” he said.

Derek Kozlowski, a Dalton resident with military experience, said he welcomes measures that ease prohibitions on where license holders can carry.

“If you’re responsible enough to have a carry permit, then you ought to be allowed to carry becaue the people who are going to do things bad are going to have guns regardless,” he said. “For the rest of us to not be protected is a crime in itself.”

Jasperse said a federal law banning guns on public school property already allows local school system leaders to set policies for named individuals to be able to carry them there legally. If the proposed bill passes, it would remove a broader state ban on firearms in schools, requiring instead that local school districts train and approve any employees they allow to carry and that they set policies regulating what kinds of firearms and ammunition are allowed.

Fred Gould of the regional unit of the Georgia Association of Educators that includes Whitfield and Murray counties said the organization supports school resource officers in schools but would likely have a lot of questions about the proposed state bill.

“We would want to scrutinize anything of that nature that’s going to bring additional guns onto campus, no matter what the circumstances,” he said.

Holly Creek Baptist Church Pastor Danny Cochran said he has mixed feelings about the proposal and how it would affect places of worship. Cochran said that while he would support having people properly trained to use firearms — such as police officers — in a house of worship, allowing people who are not properly trained to carry weapons could “cause more harm than it prevents.” Yet he also said he supports law-abiding citizens’ rights to carry firearms.

Cochran said he understands from safety training he’s undergone that in most shootings at church buildings, the incident is over before law enforcement arrives. That means churches need to have safety programs in place to address potential problems, he said.

“We live in a changing environment, and churches are no longer a safe haven,” Cochran said.

Another proposed change is legalizing gun carry in government buildings where there are no security checkpoints. Weapons would still be prohibited at courthouses and other places where people are screened before entering.

Jasperse said the bill contains numerous smaller changes to existing law, and he hopes those tweaks will make gun carry for law-abiding citizens easier. He said he heard ears-full from would-be voters when he was campaigning and hopes this bill addresses some of their concerns.

“This is the No. 1 question that was asked: ‘How do you feel about the Second Amendment? What are you going to do to protect our Second Amendment rights?’” Jasperse said. “So I’m just listening to people and working for what I have been asked by many, many, many people to work on.”


Text Only
Local News
  • runner thompson.jpg Taking the race back

    Dean Thompson didn’t go 100 yards in his 26.2 miles through the streets of Boston without seeing people on the side of the road cheering for him.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bobby Lee Dixon mg.jpg Officials: Man jailed for driving toward officer

    A Chatsworth man who officials said accelerated a vehicle toward a law enforcement officer who was approaching on foot remains in the Murray County jail without bond.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Standoff 1 mlh.jpg Charges undetermined following standoff (Updated 5:45 p.m.)

    Police have yet to decide whether to press criminal charges against a man they say was armed and intoxicated while barricading himself in his office at a carpet mill in downtown Dalton Tuesday evening.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo 1 Story

  • Man charged for using fraudulent Social Security card

    A man is being held in the Whitfield County Jail on multiple charges for using a fraudulent Social Security card with someone else’s Social Security number to land a job at a rug manufacturer in Dalton and for providing false information to receive workers’ compensation benefits, according to the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation’s Enforcement Division.

    April 23, 2014

  • Standoff 1 mlh.jpg Police: Four-hour standoff ends with peaceful surrender

    A man who was armed with at least one firearm and believed to be under the influence of alcohol surrendered to police Tuesday night after barricading himself for four hours inside a carpet mill in downtown Dalton, officials said.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Murray deputy bit by drug dog while taking selfie

    A Murray County Sheriff’s Office deputy is recovering after one of the department’s drug dogs bit him in the face on Monday.

    April 23, 2014

  • Local wrestler ‘made everybody smile’

    Rash Renegade got his wrestling nickname after a motorcycle wreck several years ago left him with a bad case of road burn.

    April 23, 2014

  • Pinwheels in murray '14 1 mlh.jpg Awareness can prevent child abuse

    Three hundred forty-six pinwheels dotted the Murray County Courthouse lawn on Tuesday, representing 346 reported cases of child abuse in the county last year.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Murray library, regional system still far apart

    Murray County officials say they will announce soon if they will follow through with their plan to take the Chatsworth-Murray Library out of the Northwest Georgia Regional Library System.

    April 22, 2014

  • Fire believed to have started outside home

    Investigators are still working to learn what sparked a fire that nearly destroyed a house at 602 Top St. in Dalton on Monday.

    April 22, 2014