Senate advances permitless carry, backed by Kemp and gun groups

The bill that advanced in the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday would do away with the need for a license to carry a handgun in public — either openly or concealed on one’s body. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

A bill to end the state requirement for gun carry licenses in Georgia is moving forward. On Tuesday, a Senate committee advanced the legislation, which supporters call “constitutional carry.”

Among the measure’s promoters are groups of out-of-state gun rights activists featured in the Pulitzer Prize-winning NPR investigative podcast “No Compromise.” These groups raise money across the country promoting absolutist gun laws and targeting Republican lawmakers who don’t support their efforts. 

Gov. Brian Kemp is one of the scores of Republican state leaders who for years have been pressed to support policies like constitutional carry, which make concealed carry permits optional. While remaining mostly quiet on the measure during his time in office, Kemp gave a press conference early this year urging the state legislature to draft a bill. The announcement came a month after former U.S. Sen. David Perdue officially announced he would challenge Kemp in the 2022 governor’s race.  

Permitless carry is already the law in 21 states, all but three of which adopted the measures in the last decade as part of a movement of gun rights activists who scorn the National Rifle Association as weak on guns. 

Among them is Aaron Dorr, the oldest of a group of Iowa brothers who argue gun rights are granted by God and guaranteed absolutely by the Second Amendment. 

Gun rights advocate Aaron Door speaks during a public comment period for the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday at the State Capitol. (Sam Gringlas/Screenshot)

After testifying in support of the bill, Democratic state Sen. Elena Parent questioned Dorr about his gun rights beliefs in a recent committee hearing. 

“Isn’t it the case that no right is absolute?” asked Parent.

“Oh, I would not agree with that when it comes to the Second Amendment,” Dorr responded. 

Gov. Kemp’s public support for a constitutional carry law all but guarantees some version of the bill will become Georgia law.

Getting a weapons carry license currently requires applying at a probate court, fingerprints, a background check and a fee. Senate Bill 319 would make those permits optional.

Freshman state Sen. Jason Anavitarte sponsored the bill and took questions from fellow Republican state Sen. Blake Tillery this week. 

TILLERY: Do the folks who break the law care if we have a law that says need a gun permit?

ANAVITARTE: …Those individuals don’t care about laws or anything.

TILLERY: So is it your premise that folks who are burdened by this process are the folks who are actually obeying the law?


If the bill passes, background checks would still be conducted when a gun is purchased at a store, but background checks aren’t currently required when guns are gifted or bought in a private sale.

Without a mandatory permit process, the bill’s detractors argue some gun owners would never undergo a background check.

“Are you aware that in 2020, at least 5,000 people were denied weapons carry licenses and the number one reason for denial was criminal history?” state Sen. Parent asked the bill’s sponsor.

Anavitarte agreed that background checks do catch people who are not legally allowed to buy or possess guns.