Georgia Democrat gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has taken to social media to complaint about Georgia’s recent repeal of Jim Crow requirements to have a license to carry a handgun. She clearly misunderstands what the now-repealed law used to do and what the state of the law is in Georgia.
The requirement to have a license to carry a handgun (it always has been legal – at least for white people – to carry rifles and shotguns in Georgia without a license) was passed in 1910, in the wake of the Atlanta race riots. The legislature obliged popular public sentiment and the Atlanta Journal’s editorial urging the state to “Disarm the Negroes” (Editorial in Atlanta Journal, September 24, 1906, p. 6) When passed, the law required anyone carrying a handgun in public to have a license. Carrying without a license was a misdemeanor. Even with a license, carrying had to be accomplished in a fully open manner. Concealed carry was still a crime, even with a license. Carrying a concealed weapon was a separate misdemeanor.
In the latter part of the 20th Century, the legislature allowed people with carry licenses to carry concealed. Then, in 2010, the legislature repealed altogether the prohibition against carrying a concealed weapon. Thus, for about 30 years it was not entirely wrong to call a Georgia weapons carry license a “concealed carry license.” It was just was imprecise. But for most of the 110+ years that licenses have been issued, licenses were not associated with concealed carry.
Nevertheless, Abrams now says in 2018-2020, Georgia “courts” (Abrams mistakenly believes that courts are involved in weapons carry licensing decisions – they aren’t) “deemed individuals too dangerous for concealed carry” 11, 396 times. Again, however, weapons carry licenses have nothing to do with “concealed carry,” because concealed carry was not a crime in Georgia during those years – with or without a license.
Abrams also exaggerates the significance of the 11,396. That figure is merely the number of times a probate judge denied a weapons carry license application (or, in a few instances, revoked one). But Abrams fails to mention the number of times a probate judge later corrected an error and then issued a license, or the number of times an applicant sued or appealed a denial that later resulted in issuance. In short, when Abrams calls a denied applicant “too dangerous for concealed carry,” Abrams is mistakenly equating denial of a permit (which in many cases is found to be erroneous) with “too dangerous for concealed carry.”
Abrams tweets that permitless carry, passed in the 2022 legislative session, is “criminal carry.” The implication is that criminals – those who would commit crimes with guns, including murder, rape, robbery, and assault – refrained from carrying handguns when they could not get a license but now they will readily carry. What Abrams fails to consider, though, is that under current law, a person who is not eligible for a weapons carry license still is prohibited from carrying. That is, the requirement for a license (for which a person had to be a law-abiding citizen) has been replaced with the more straightforward requirement that the carrier be a law-abiding citizen. So, the robber from last year who could not get a license (and was therefore prohibited from carrying) is still prohibited from carrying. Nothing has changed for criminals.
What Abrams fails to understand is that criminals will carry guns whether there is a requirement for a license or not. The licensing requirement just imposes a burden on law-abiding citizens. Current law just makes it more streamlined. It still is a crime for a criminal to carry a gun (just like it was with the licensing requirement). The only thing that changed is the burden on law-abiding citizens has been repealed.
Abrams’ desire to revert to the Jim Crow licensing requirement is misplaced.