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Georgia House passes two gun bills with different reactions

The Georgia House of Representatives approved two gun-related bills on Tuesday, one with broad bipartisan support and the other with strong opposition from Democrats. The first bill would offer tax credits for gun safety measures, while the second bill would ban the use of a merchant code for gun sales.

Tax credits for gun safety training and storage

House Bill 971, sponsored by Republican Rep. Mark Newton of Augusta, would provide a state income tax credit of up to $300 for Georgia residents who purchase gun safes or gun safety accessories, or who take a firearm safety course. Newton said the bill would encourage responsible gun ownership and prevent gun thefts and accidents.

The bill received overwhelming support from both parties, passing the chamber by a vote of 162-3. Democratic Rep. Michelle Au of Johns Creek praised the bill as a way to address the issue of gun violence in the state. “Incentivizing secure storage and personal responsibility is something we can agree on. It’s something we can get done together. And it’s a way that we can show that this body and the state can lead on the issue,” she said.

Only three Republican lawmakers voted against the bill: Reps. Charlice Byrd and Jordan Ridley of Woodstock and Mitchell Horner of Ringgold. Byrd claimed that the bill would create a “backdoor registry” of gun owners through the Department of Revenue, which Newton denied.

Ban on merchant code for gun stores

House Bill 1018, sponsored by Republican Rep. Jason Ridley of Chatsworth, would prohibit financial institutions from using a merchant category code to distinguish firearms retailers from other businesses. Merchant category codes are four-digit numbers that identify the type of product or service purchased with a credit or debit card.

Ridley said the bill would protect the privacy and rights of gun owners from foreign interference. He noted that the International Organization for Standardization, based in Switzerland, had proposed a new merchant code for gun sales in 2022, but later postponed the decision after backlash from the gun lobby and conservative politicians.

Georgia House passes two gun bills with different reactions

The bill faced fierce opposition from Democrats, who argued that the bill would hamper the ability of banks to detect fraud and law enforcement agencies to spot potential mass shooters. Democratic Rep. Shea Roberts of Atlanta said the bill would give priority to the gun lobby over public safety. “It’s what we’ve seen time and time again. The gun lobby trumps everything,” she said.

Next steps for the bills

Both bills now head to the state Senate for consideration. If approved by the Senate and signed by the governor, they would take effect on July 1, 2024. Supporters of the bills hope that they will promote gun safety and freedom in the state, while opponents fear that they will increase the risk of gun violence and crime.


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