Firearm licenses in Georgia are declining under ‘permissible carry’ law – WABE

About half as many Georgians have applied for handgun-carrying permits in the year since it became optional.

There are now ‚Äúpermitted transportation‚ÄĚ laws in 28 states, most of which were passed in the last decade. Passing “legal carry” was a top priority for Georgia Republicans.

“Law-abiding Georgians, including our daughters and your family, can protect themselves without permission from their state government,” Gov. Brian Kemp told supporters as he signed the law into law at Gable Sporting Goods last year.

According to state data from the Georgia Crime Information Center, requested by WABE, licenses have been issued to 61,547 Georgians since the law went into effect last July. That’s compared to 122,207 a year earlier.

“I’m just saying, yes, it definitely eased the burden,” said Kevin Holder, executive director of the Council of Probate Court Judges of Georgia.

Local probate courts handle gun permits, marriage certificates, and probate registrations.

Holder says part of the drop in gun permits is due to a return to normal levels after record applications during the pandemic.

“Anytime there’s a mass casualty event, whenever there’s a presidential election, whenever there’s a natural disaster,” he says. “We pretty much had a mix of all three.”

Consider Fulton County, which according to the Fulton County Probate Court issued 9,659 firearm licenses in 2019, compared to 17,451 in President Biden’s first year in office in 2021.

Nevertheless, the applications are now well below the level before the pandemic.

Probate judges insist these licenses are still useful even though they are no longer mandatory.

Licenses allow gun owners to carry firearms in other states that require a license and are based on reciprocity with Georgia. Thirty-two states have reciprocity with Georgia.

And because a background check is required to obtain a permit, permit holders can purchase firearms from retailers without having to undergo a new background check each time.

“Even proponents of the bill encouraged those who were licensed to consider continuing to get a license because it’s still useful,” Holder says.

Republican supporters say mandatory licenses only burden law-abiding citizens, and most criminals carry guns regardless of whether they are licensed or not.

Data provided by the Administrative Office of the Courts shows that around 2% of applicants are denied permits each year. For example, federal law generally does not permit persons convicted of a felony to possess firearms.

Democrats believe a mandatory permitting process is an important safeguard to flag people who are not legally permitted to own a gun and who would otherwise never be subjected to a background check. No background checks are required when buying a gun privately or giving it away.

“I think we can all agree that this leaves a huge gap in our safety net,” Rep. Michelle Au said at a Senate hearing last year. “With the passage of SB 319, this point-of-sale background check would be the first and only way to weed out those who should not have legal access to firearms.”

Holder, who represents probate judges, agrees it’s an impact of the legislation, but says it’s something that’s difficult to quantify.