March 15, 2014

Gunsmoke or smokescreen

The Daily Citizen

— The right to self defense is one of the most basic rights any individual has, and the right to own and carry guns is a bulwark of a free society.

Thankfully, Georgia generally has some of the strongest legal protections in the nation for these rights.

That’s why we are perplexed that the Georgia General Assembly seems to be devoting so much energy in the current session to what are, at best, marginal extensions of those protections.

Lawmakers are currently considering two different bills that would allow churches and bars to permit carrying firearms on their premises. That’s currently banned by state law.

We see no reason why churches should not be able to allow guns at their discretion. That seems as much a matter of protecting their property rights as it is of protecting the rights of gunowners.

We are less certain that allowing guns in places where people have been drinking is as wise an idea, though we aren’t totally opposed.

But we wonder if these bills should even be on the General Assembly’s agenda at this time. The state faces far more pressing problems: a sluggish economy, slow job growth and a tax system that makes us less competitive than some neighboring states, among them.

We expect that lawmakers are taking up these gun bills not because they address major, pressing problems, but because they play well with their conservative base. And if we were really being cynical, we might think lawmakers believe that passing such a “red meat” bill might detract those conservative voters from noticing their failure to contain spending, cut taxes or address any meaningful government reforms.