The Georgia Senate on Monday backed legislation loosening gun restrictions just two weeks after eight people were killed in Atlanta-area spa shootings.
State Sen. Bo Hatchett (R) touted the bill as a way to protect the Second Amendment, which “recognizes Georgia’s commitment to protect its citizens and their Second Amendment rights,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Last week, the state House passed its bill expanding weapons carrying licenses in a 34-18 vote along party lines, with Republicans backing the measure. Georgia state Rep. Mandi Ballinger (R) had proposed the bill to ease restrictions for travelers bringing their guns into the state.
Senators amended the legislation to permit probate judges to process gun carry licenses and renewals online, instead of the current process of requiting applicants to show up to the court in person. Additionally, the bill restricts Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) from closing weapons manufacturers or shooting ranges during a public emergency.
The state Senate also voted to amend the state House bill to bar Kemp from implementing guidelines that “specifically limit the practice of any religion” during a declared state of emergency.
Last year, state lawmakers granted Kemp expanded public health emergency powers in response to COVID-19.
The bill expanding gun right protections in Georgia now heads back to the House.
Democrats pointed out that the passage of the bill comes just two weeks after the Atlanta-area spa shootings that killed eight people, most of whom are of Asian descent. Democrats also noted other recent shootings around the country such as the mass shooting at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado.
“We don’t have to live like this,” said state Sen. Elena Parent (D). “We don’t have to see three establishments shot up and eight people dead in our state. We don’t have to live in fear of the next mass shooting.”