The law enforcement community appears divided after last week’s expansion of Georgia’s gun rights that allows those with concealed-carry permits to arm themselves in bars, churches, school zones, government buildings and certain parts of airports.
Even some sheriffs warn that the changes could endanger police and result in more bloodshed.
So far, probate court representatives in Augusta’s four metro counties say not many people have taken advantage of the new rights or even mentioned the 2014 Safe Carry Protection Act in the week since Gov. Nathan Deal signed it into law.
“We haven’t seen an increase in permits, and I don’t think we will,” Richmond County Probate Judge Harry B. James III said of the passage of House Bill 60, dubbed by opponents the “guns everywhere” bill. “Statistics actually show we are running behind this year, compared to last.”
Since Jan. 1, Richmond County probate data show 908 residents have applied for and 874 people have been issued Georgia Weapons Carry Permits by the court.
Through the same period last year, probate records show the court received 1,113 applications and approved 1,089 for permits.
The trend has been the same throughout the Augusta area, except for Columbia County, which had a busy Friday, but probate clerk Michelle James said the end of the week is typically busy for permit applications.
“We have not seen a big increase,” she said of the effects of the law’s passage. “It’s still about average, but it could pick up.”
Since the beginning of the year, Columbia County has had more than 926 people apply for a weapons carry permit.
After paying a $79.25 application fee and filling out paperwork, applicants are fingerprinted and photographed, and if they pass the mandatory background check by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, they receive approval from their county’s probate judge for a license by mail. The process takes about two weeks.
“It has actually been quiet,” said Denise Quick, the chief clerk of Burke County Probate Court.
Quick said her office hasn’t seen a spike in permits, averaging about one or two applications a week.
Records were not readily available on how many applications Burke County has received since Jan. 1, but McDuffie County has had 144 apply since the beginning of the year.
“So far, we have not seen an increase, and I am not sure if the new law will make people apply,” said Lora Hadden, McDuffie County probate clerk. “But you never know.”