Not too long before Charlie Daniels came up to Charlotte to play for the NRA Convention, a controversy erupted in the State of Georgia over NRA’s action on two recent bills which are currently awaiting the signature of Governor Sonny Purdue. It took me a while to blog about this, because the issues are complex. It takes time to research the statutes, read the both bills, the amendments and changes. All this while trying to find out how the lawmaking process in Georgia works, trying to understand Georgia Law, and getting NRA’s side of what happened.
The NRA was actively sabotaging SB 308 all night tonight. I witnessed this firsthand. They tried to amend it with something that they believed would draw a Governor’s veto. When that failed, they began telling lies about the bill to politicians and the press. I could not believe what I was seeing. I was spending hours running around correcting NRA lies about the bill.
Then Senator Steve Thompson took the well and said what everybody knew, that the Senators had “cover” to vote against the bill, in spite of GCO’s letter letting them know we are tracking their vote, because “The NRA opposes this bill.”
Except that NRA was supporting this bill from the beginning, as early as March by public record, they even released this letter to the bill’s sponsor to me showing their support for the bill from the beginning. Currently they are urging Purdue’s signature on the bills as finally passed. If this is what NRA opposition to a bill looks like, I’d hate to see what support would be by this standard. Chaining the Governor to a desk with only their bill and a pen, in the hopes that he’ll sign before deciding toÂ gnawÂ off his leg? The fact is, NRA has supported this bill from the beginning. So what really happened? Here’s what my research into this matter has revealed.
When SB308 went into conference, the conference committee’s first report stripped the airport language out of the bill, which made NRA none too happy, and they asked that it be put back in. Despite the fact that detractors have pointed out that both bills contain language to fix the airport problem, what they seem to have overlooked is thatÂ SB308 strikes the portion of the law thatÂ SB291 amends with the airport language. If you pass SB291, and pass SB308 without the airport language, you don’t clearly get airport carry in the final result.
The second conference report still did not contain the airport language, and included language from the Georgia Realtors Association, but no one wanted to say what that language was. Given that GRA had caused problems on the parking lot bill of last year, this was cause for concern about their language being in the report. NRA asked that the language be removed. It was not, and NRA did not discover what the language was until the conference report actually came out.
Now the key bit of information here is that when you’re dealing with reports from a conference committee, you can’t propose amendments. It’s not just a matter of asking them to stick something back in. All you can do is demand that the report be voted against, reconvene the conference committee, and get them to vote on a new report. That’s easy to do when you have time, but this was all happening on the last day of the session. The second report wasn’t issued to Senators until 9:25pm. It has to be on their desks for a least an hour before there any action on the bill.Â AdjournmentÂ was at 12am, and then the session would be over for this legislative year. That meant a very frantic push to try to find out what was in the bill, what changes were made, the impact of those changes, and whether or not they were bad enough to warrant demanding Senators vote down the conference report, which very well could have killed the bill for the session. I’m going to guess that while NRA was evaluating the language, they were makingÂ preparationsÂ for having to kill the bill if the language turned out to do something awful. But in the end they made the judgement call that it was good enough, and supported the bill moving forward to final passage. This would have seemed very confusing to someone who did not have a clear picture of what was going on, which presented some of the anti-gun Senators withÂ opportunityÂ to spread a little FUD around.
So basically, what Georgia’s “no compromise” group is complaining about, at its root, was that NRA seemed willing for a while to kill the bill rather than compromise.Â I am completely fine with legitimate criticism of NRA — they do make mistakes — but so much of the criticism out there is barely researched nonsense. GeorgeCarry.org is striking me as one of these groups trying to boost itself up by tearing others down. I hope I’m wrong about that, because SB308 is not a perfect bill. There will be more legislating that needs to happen next session. I sincerely hope that GeorgiaCarry.org acts in good faith when that time comes. We do better when we work together rather than trying to tear each other up.