Ellijay, Georgia (CNN) — Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed a wide-ranging gun bill into law Wednesday that has critics howling and proponents applauding.
House Bill 60, or the Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014 — which opponents have nicknamed the “guns everywhere bill” — specifies where Georgia residents can carry weapons. Included are provisions that allow residents who have concealed carry permits to take guns into some bars, churches, school zones, government buildings and certain parts of airports.
GeorgiaCarry, which lobbied for the bill, calls it “meaningful pro-gun legislation,” despite it being watered down from the group’s perspective. Still, the group has lauded the legislation, which will go into effect July 1. Americans for Responsible Solutions opposed the bill, calling it “extremism in action.”
Wednesday’s signing came at an open-air picnic area along a creek in Ellijay, in northern Georgia. It opened with a prayer, the singing of the national anthem and a recital of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Hundreds of people filled more than 25 picnic tables, while others stood. Many were openly carrying handguns, and some wore National Rifle Association hats and buttons proclaiming, “Stop Gun Control” and “Guns Save Lives.”
Calling it “a great day to reaffirm our liberties,” Deal said the law allows residents to protect their families and expands the list of places where they can legally carry firearms, while allowing certain property owners, namely churches and bars, to make judgments on whether they want worshippers and patrons carrying guns.
“The Second Amendment should never be an afterthought. It should be at the forefront of our minds,” Deal said while touting his NRA endorsement for governor and “A” rating during his 17 years in Congress.
The governor said the law “will protect the constitutional rights of Georgians who have gone through a background check to legally obtain a Georgia Weapons Carry License.
“Roughly 500,000 Georgia citizens have a permit of this kind, which is approximately 5 percent of our population. License holders have passed background checks and are in good standing with the law. This law gives added protections to those who have played by the rules — and who can protect themselves and others from those who don’t play by the rules.