Editorial: Legislative trend allows guns in more places
In the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in late 2012, the first reaction was to tighten restrictions on firearms.
But it appears the counter reaction is winning the day.
Since Sandy Hook, states have passed 39 laws to tighten gun restrictions but an estimated 70 to loosen them, the New York Times reported recently.
West Virginia joined that trend this week when Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed a bill designed to create uniform gun laws across that state. Charleston, Martinsburg, South Charleston and Dunbar had ordinances that were more restrictive than the state law, and those now have to come in line.
Senate Bill 317 still allows municipalities to ban guns from city-owned buildings "dedicated to government operations," but would allow guns in public recreational facilities, including swimming pools and after-school centers. Critics are concerned about allowing guns in sports venues and places that cater to children, but legislators ultimately agreed with lobbyists for gun rights organizations that recreation centers should be exempt.
Legislation passed in Georgia this year is even more expansive, allowing guns in bars, schools, restaurants, churches and airports, and Republican Gov. Nathan Deal is expected to sign the changes into law. Critics call it the "guns everywhere bill," but the National Rifle Association describes it as an "historic victory for the Second Amendment."
While the Georgia law might be the nation's most pro-gun legislation, many of the features have been embraced in other states. Several allow guns in churches and bars, two now allow guns on college campuses, and other states are considering those actions.
But some are concerned about the impact of all these actions and whether they will be a positive or a negative for day-to-day safety and how comfortable the public will be with the changes.
In Georgia, the legislation was opposed by the state's police chiefs association, the restaurant association and some church groups. Some polls showed Georgians opposed the legislation, and the most recent Gallup Poll on the topic shows 49 percent of people favor more restrictive gun laws, 37 percent favor the status quo and only 13 percent advocate less restrictive guns laws.
While a minority of Americans own guns -- polls shows about 35 percent of people report having guns in their homes -- gun-rights advocates have found a winning political formula that focuses on the personal liberties of law abiding citizens. But from a public safety perspective, the debate will continue on whether more guns in more places is a good idea.
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