During last year’s legislative session, Bearden joined with a group of other gun rights advocates planning a push to build on a 2008 measure that allowed those with permits to carry firearms into state parks, restaurants that serve alcohol and mass transit facilities.
The new law was met with a handful of legal challenges following its passage in 2008, with a federal judges ruling that officials representing Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport could ban guns from the premises. Later, in a separate case, a federal judge ruled that the Atlanta mass transit system had the legal right to stop and question a passenger believed to be carrying a firearm, though the passenger in question claimed protection under the 2008 law.
Bearden has in the past condemned these rulings as “legislating from the bench,” saying the 2008 gun bill clearly allows law-abiding residents to carry a firearm while a passenger on mass transit.
Now, in the wake of the shooting in Tucson, Az. that left six dead and U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords critically wounded, he may have a chance to ensure the House hears legislation that may not only prevent further gun restrictions but might expand the rights of gun owners in the state.
One of the bills that may come before his committee would limit the governor’s ability to order citizens’ guns seized during a state of emergency, a law that several surrounding states already have on the books.
“We’ll be keeping a close eye on what bills are out there ... But we really don’t expand the gun rights. We just try to restore the rights that have been taken away over the years of gun-rights legislation,” Bearden said. “I haven’t seen any [bills limiting gun rights] yet on the state level. I know there’s been some talk on the national level, and we’re keeping our eyes on that.”
Shortly after the shooting in Arizona, politicians and pundits on both sides of the aisle went to work assigning blame, with a large contingency on the left clamoring for greater gun regulation. Such legislation won’t stop a madman from abusing his Second Amendment rights, and, considering that Georgia lawmakers have historically protected the rights of gun ownership, it’s unlikely any such restrictive legislation will make it through the General Assembly this year.
Another contentious issue that could very well come before the public safety committee is that of illegal immigration, and freshman Rep. Kevin Cooke, R-Carrollton, said he hopes the Legislature moves forward on a law similar to that which was passed in Arizona last year giving police the authority to request documentation from anyone suspected of being in the country illegally.
By some estimates, undocumented immigrants cost the state upwards of $2 billion in services annually, and during such shaky economic times, the state needs to do all it can to cut out unnecessary expenses.
“When it comes to the rule of law and the state’s responsibility in enforcing that law, I think it’s exactly what the state needs to be involved in,” Cooke said. “In budget times like these, we can’t afford to pay that much for people who are breaking the law.”