Georgia Governor Brian Kemp Pushes Open Carry Gun Law Amid Pressure from GOP Opponents

Georgia could introduce a new open-carry gun law thanks to Governor Brian Kemp.

The governor and his wife will hold a meeting with both lawmakers and gun rights advocates in a gun shop on Wednesday. During this meeting, he is expected to announce support for new legislation that could revoke the need for people to have a license to carry a weapon in public. This law would affect both open and concealed guns, according to drafts obtained by the Associated Press.

"Building a safer, stronger Georgia starts with hardworking Georgians having the ability to protect themselves and their families," wrote Kemp in the obtained draft remarks. "In the face of rising violent crime across the country, law-abiding citizens should have their constitutional rights protected."

It is unclear whether these remarks will be given during his scheduled address. However, the upcoming conference does come after Republican lawmakers pressured Kemp to readdress his endorsement for constitutional carry during his first campaign for governor.

"I'm glad Brian Kemp is answering my call for constitutional carry in Georgia," tweeted David Perdue on Monday. "But real leaders lead from the start – and it's time Georgia had a Governor who shows principled leadership when it matters most."

John Russell Howald anti-LGBTQ hate crime shooting
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is expected to announce his support for a new open carry gun law on Wednesday. In this photo illustration, a man in jeans holds a gun downward. Shutter2U/Getty

The shop in Smyrna, Adventure Outdoors, bills itself as the "world's largest gun store."

More than 20 other states allow concealed weapons in public without a permit—or what supporters call "constitutional carry," according to Stateline, an initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Georgia currently requires people to obtain a license to carry a loaded handgun outside their own home, business, or car, although people can carry rifles and shotguns in many places without a permit and carry unloaded guns in cases.

To obtain a weapons license, state residents must submit an application and fee and undergo fingerprinting and a background check. Convicted felons and people who have been hospitalized for mental health problems or received treatment for drugs or alcohol in the years preceding the application are not eligible.

Multiple bills currently pending at the state Capitol would scrap the license requirement. And Georgia House Speaker David Ralston has indicated he is open to some form of permitless carry legislation. Ralston set aside a gun-related bill in the closing hours of the regular session last year, saying it was too soon after the shooting deaths of eight people at massage businesses in metro Atlanta.

Republican state Senator Jason Anavitarte of Dallas, co-sponsor of one of the "constitutional carry" bills, said people want the policy passed.

"It's our inherent Second Amendment right to carry without having a license," he said.

One key question, if licenses are abolished, is what the state would do, if anything, to try to prevent convicted felons and people with mental illness from carrying handguns outside.

Courtney Spriggs, leader of the Georgia chapter of the gun safety group, Moms Demand Action, accused Kemp of playing "political games that could cost Georgians their lives." Spriggs worked as a law enforcement officer, and her husband is a sheriff's deputy.

"This is incredibly dangerous to law enforcement to not know if the person carrying a weapon has been vetted at all," she said. "It's incredibly scary and frankly anti law enforcement."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Kemp at AJ's
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp will announce his support on January 5, 2022, for a new law that will revoke the requirement to hold a license to carry a gun in public. Above, Kemp speaks at a news conference about the state's new Election Integrity Law that passed this week at AJ’s Famous Seafood and Poboys on April 10, 2021, in Marietta, Georgia. Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images