ATLANTA, Ga. -
Georgia senators have a packed agenda nearing the end of the 2014 legislative calendar.
One topic that has people protesting in full force outside the Capitol is gun rights. House Bill 60 is now awaiting a vote in the Senate.
Along with HB826 and HB875, it would expand the law to allow Georgians to carry concealed weapons in churches and schools, among looser regulations for concealed carry applicants and many other added rights for gun owners.
Protesters from a number of organizations have been at the State Capitol since the beginning of the legislative session lashing out against these measures, saying the looser laws can lead to skyrocketing crime rates. They gathered on the Capitol's front steps Tuesday to reinforce their views.
Piyali Cole is the Georgia director of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. She says, "It's the gun lobbies that are writing these bills. They are not for the citizens. They are not for Georgians. Georgians don't want this, we didn't ask for them. We're asking our senators to vote no."
Two main activists against the measure have been Michael and Jeri Bishop, Pine Mountain residents whose son was killed during the mass shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007. Michael spoke at the rally Tuesday, saying, "A major cause is not the lack of guns in our society to combat crime, but rather the efficiency with which guns kill and their easy availability to persons who should not possess them."
Gun rights advocate and Georgia director of Students for Concealed Carry, Jason Stubbs, sees things exactly opposite. He argues that these new bills are actually breakthroughs. "I really think this is another move, another progression of civil rights," he says, "restoring the rights of the underprivileged minorities and society as a whole."
Stubbs says criminals will have weapons regardless of the law, and these new measures simply allow more people to protect themselves.
Others say there are better means of self-protection, like Mary Pat Hector, the national youth director for the National Action Network. She says, "If you really want to protect our teachers and arm our teachers, let's arm them with STEM, let's arm them with resources, let's arm them with raises."
Bishop adds, "Along with the Stand Your Ground provision and current Georgia laws, these bills would further endanger rather than protect our citizens."
"People who carry guns, we don't do it to single out people or to be John Wayne's," says Stubbs. "We do it to protect people when the situation comes up because when you need them, police aren't there."
The next two days will determine what will happen with these three bills. We'll keep you updated as the votes come in.