- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:


Feb. 27

The Augusta Chronicle on concealed-carry reciprocity laws between Georgia and South Carolina:

We were enjoying lunch at a North Augusta, S.C., restaurant recently when a potentially violent incident nearly broke out.

We overheard a man telling his lady friend, odd as it sounds, that he should probably beat up another man seated nearby. “Why?” she asked him. Because of the company name on the man’s shirt, he told her. It was the name of a well-known national corporation.

The man spoiling for a fight was either mentally ill or perhaps had an unforgettable customer service problem with the company.

At any rate, luckily the completely innocent object of the man’s scorn appeared not to have heard the threat, and eventually the belligerent customer and his lady friend left.

But for a few tense moments, we realized we could’ve been caught in the middle of a brawl.

Feeling a sense of obligation to step in and protect the unwary patron against his would-be attacker, we briefly wondered if being armed would’ve been a good idea.

We don’t know, even in retrospect. But it would’ve been nice to even have had the option.

As Georgia residents, however, we didn’t. For some reason which makes absolutely no sense in the middle of a violent confrontation, Georgia concealed-weapon carriers are not allowed to pack in neighboring South Carolina, and vice versa.

It’s called “reciprocity.” States have it with some states, and not with others.

We find that goofy to begin with; we carry our First Amendment rights across state lines - why shouldn’t we be allowed to take our Second Amendment rights too? It is, after all, a federal constitutional right.

But reciprocity is even nuttier in its implementation: We know of a man with a South Carolina concealed-carry permit who applied for an additional permit in New Hampshire last year - because the New England state is reciprocal with Georgia, while South Carolina is not.

So, as a matter of convenience, to carry in Georgia he went knocking on New Hampshire’s regulatory door.

That’s the state of gun laws in 2016 America. And it’s just beyond absurd.

In fact, North Augusta state Rep. Bill Hixon reports that it’s the top issue his constituents bring up to him.

Moreover, as Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, notes, the ludicrous laws make lawbreakers out of otherwise law-abiding citizens who have cause to cross state lines for business or pleasure and who may forget to accommodate the other state’s law.

It’s time to stop this insane patchwork of concealed-carry laws - if not nationally, then locally.

Rep. Hixon introduced a law last year making South Carolina reciprocal with both Georgia and North Carolina. It passed the House easily, 101-5, but got bogged down in the state Senate.

Earlier this month, Hixon asked South Carolinians who border either state to contact their sheriffs and urge them not to block reciprocity. The state Sheriff’s Association has opposed it - even though both South Carolina and Georgia are already reciprocal with most of the other states in the country.

It’s as if the two states were isolating each other for an embargo.

Also muddying the water is a competing proposal in South Carolina that would eliminate gun permits altogether. That admittedly dicier prospect should make Hixon’s more modest proposal for mere reciprocity with Georgia and North Carolina more palatable.

We got off easily in our North Augusta near-encounter. But in Columbus, Ohio, recently, a machete-wielding man entered a deli and hacked four people, before being chased out by a bat-wielding employee and a customer throwing chairs.

Surely in a similar circumstance we would want more of a defense than that. We should at least have a right to it.

No matter where we live or choose to eat lunch.




Feb. 26

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on carrying of guns on college campuses:

One of the most-used phrases at the Gold Dome is keeping government close to the end-user. As in letting those who stand to receive the most benefit - or harm - from a government action, or inaction, have the greatest say on issues around it.

That’s often not a bad governance philosophy, as it plays to a natural tendency for people and entities to often act from a position of enlightened self-interest.

Which makes it all the more quizzical that the Georgia General Assembly seems determined to legalize the carrying of guns on college campuses at a pace that rivals the supersonic speed of a 9mm bullet.

Even more worrisome, given the Legislature’s intense love for sweeping government’s hard decisions far away from the State House and back down to the people, is why lawmakers seem tone-deaf to the advice of those closest to this issue. The administrators charged with maintaining safe environments for living and learning at Georgia’s colleges and universities are having the toughest of times being heard - or understood - on campus carry. Willfully overlooking their insights could have serious, even fatal, consequences for Georgia and its brightest youth.

We’re certain that ginning up election-year drama and campaign talking points explains much of this situation. Pushing along House Bill 859 will play well in many polling places in this fear-filled age.

Lawmakers should nevertheless behave in at least as serious and cautious a manner as the hormone-driven 21-year-olds whom many lawmakers believe are mature enough to tote concealed handguns across campus.

Before stepping further into this skirmish, we’ll note once more that, yes, the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment certainly grants Americans the right to bear arms. The U.S. Supreme Court in recent years has reinforced that right. Gun ownership - and concealed carry - are here to stay. We get that.

It shouldn’t be overlooked, though, that none other than the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made clear in 2008’s landmark District of Columbia vs. Heller decision that the right to carry guns is not absolute. “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited,” Scalia wrote in the majority opinion. The high court added that “the carrying of firearms in sensitive places” such as schools was indeed subject to regulation.

That should not be ignored, even as lawmakers attempt to shush college officials who’ve spent their careers molding young people. Earlier this year, legislators all but forced Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson to wear a dunce cap as they conducted an inquiry into the university’s handling of student misconduct complaints. A chief legislative inquisitor warned that colleges not toeing the Gold Dome’s line would be subject to financial punishment when budgets were set.

Given that threat, it’s no surprise that the University System of Georgia has been publicly low-key on campus carry, saying only that they support current law. The Technical College System of Georgia won’t even comment.

Lawmakers should nonetheless seek out, absorb and honestly consider the insights of university leaders. They’re in a sound position to know the risks - or possible benefits - of legalizing guns on much of campus.

As they deliberate, legislators should also glance at their driver licenses and ponder the state’s interest in imposing reasonable qualifications in exchange for the right to legally operate vehicles. Obtaining a license requires passing an exam and a vision test. Licensing an auto likewise requires owners to show proof of liability insurance. For its part, the state is diligent in continually assessing whether such insurance remains in force over time - and acting when lapses occur.

Yet, there’s no cry for easing requirements to drive. Too-lax regulation would cost lives, and lawmakers know that.

By contrast, obtaining a Georgia Weapons Carry license demands only the payment of a fee and a one-time background check. No proof, or testing, of minimal marksmanship proficiency or ability to safely handle firearms is needed.

When it comes to trusting young adults with deadly weapons at the state’s colleges and universities, lawmakers should give much more honest thought to whether their pending legislation - and existing laissez-faire concealed-carry requirements - are sufficient for 21st century Georgia.




Feb. 25

The Macon Telegraph on medical marijuana:

State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, has been working for three years to help children and adults with severe maladies get the help they need through the use of medical marijuana - a form of the plant that is too weak to create the high usually associated with the plant. Last year, Peake’s measure passed that allowed people with one of eight conditions to register with the state and with a doctor’s prescription get the drug called cannabidiol. There was only one catch. The drug was not available in Georgia. Those afflicted, or their parents, had to risk breaking a federal law by buying the drug in another state, such as Colorado, and bringing it back to Georgia. Peake sought to eliminate that risk with House Bill 722, which would have allowed the plant to be grown in Georgia by a limited number of growers.

Unfortunately, Gov. Nathan Deal didn’t agree. While many of his colleagues in the House signed on to Peake’s effort, others were afraid to buck the governor. The Georgia Sheriffs’ Association also came out against growing marijuana here, who, along with Deal believe such a legal industry would not be secure.

That’s an interesting take. Drugs, much stronger than marijuana are legally manufactured in Georgia without such security concerns even while opioid abuse runs rampant. And, if the state’s sheriffs hadn’t noticed, marijuana is being grown illegally in the state and sold on the streets of probably every city in the state. As far as concerns that legal growers would become cover operations for illegal trade, other states such as Minnesota have figured it out, why can’t Georgia?

While the main part of Peake’s idea is dead for this year, expanding the registry to include seven more diagnoses is still alive. It was approved Wednesday by the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, but still faces a Rules Committee vote and a vote of the full House before heading to the Senate. There may not be enough time in the session for it to leap those hurdles. Still, the fact remains, we are forcing ill people, or their caregivers, to cease being law abiding citizens and become criminals to ease their pain or that of a loved one. That’s just not right.



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