House Bill 875, with Ballinger as the fourth signer on the bill, is once again hitting road blocks in the Senate after easily passing the House. The story was similar in 2013 when the bill, known as the Safe Carry Protection Act, passed the House and died in the Senate.
The proposed law aims to let private property owners make their own decision on allowing guns, instead of having the government make the call for them, Ballinger said. Local boards of education would also be given the option to arm certain employees.
Ballinger calls the measure “an expansion of Second Amendment rights” and an empowerment for property owners and school boards to form their own stance on guns. Property owners and school boards, rather than the government, are better judges of what effect allowing firearms would have for them, she said.
Critics have criticized the bill, saying guns in more places could lead to more gun violence.
Those pushing the legislation in the House have made concessions to appease their apparently hesitant counterparts in the Senate, where Ballinger says substantial changes were made to the bill in recent days.
The chief concession was abandoning a proposal to decriminalize carrying weapons on college campuses. Those behind the bill were trying to make carrying a gun on college grounds a civil violation, instead of a misdemeanor as it is now, Ballinger said.
“The House is doing everything we can, everything we possibly can to try to get (the bill) passed,” Ballinger said Thursday. “Everyone is very strongly for the bill.”
But she said it doesn’t appear the House will be willing to bend much more.
“I don’t get a sense that we’re willing to give up any more than we already have,” said Ballinger, who was also a signer on the bill in 2013. “It is an expansion of Second Amendment rights, and I think we’re trying to maintain that. If we keep conceding, we’re defeating the purpose.”
As legislators such as Ballinger try to find a way to keep the bill alive, residents and activists are weighing in to make their views on the controversial measure known.
Cherokee political activist Jack Staver of the Northwest Georgia 9/12 Project issued a statement Thursday, saying the bill had unjustly been “gutted” and weakened in the Senate. He urged residents to call their legislators and make their opposition to a more timid version of the bill known.
“They are doing it again!” wrote Staver, who also works as Rep. Sam Moore’s (R-Macedonia) legislative aide. “The Senate has destroyed HB 875 …”
Others in Cherokee County may be happy to see the bill gutted.
“HB 875 is the antithesis of ‘safe carry,’” said Lisa Murad, a vice chair in the Cherokee Democratic Party.
Murad said “the majority of rank-and-file citizens” likely won’t change their habits of where they carry weapons if the bill passes. But she worries those who could be dangerous with guns would be more empowered to carry their weapons in places they previously couldn’t.
She said Georgia already has a high enough rate of gun violence.
For Ballinger, the bill is only hoped to expand Second Amendment rights by taking the power out of the hands of the government and placing it in the hands of the people.
“Anytime you can empower an individual over the government, rather than having the government dictate action or inaction, I think that’s better,” she said.