A bill before the state legislature that would enact bans on assault rifles if passed has generated lots of buzz and controversy in recent weeks.
However, Republican lawmakers have said there is no chance such a law would be put on the books.
But there is another, less publicized gun control measure before the Georgia General Assembly that conservatives may support.
That proposal would require anyone seeking a weapons carry license to first complete a firearms safety training course.
There are exemptions for those individuals working as peace officers, active-duty military personnel or National Guard members, as well as instructors certified by the National Rifle Association.
“I would think” Republicans can get behind it, Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, said.
Rogers said he planned on taking a safety course himself this past weekend just to make sure he’s up to speed on properly handling his firearms.
Rodney Smith, a Hall County resident who founded the Georgia Firearms and Security Training Academy, said he supports requirements that weapons carry license holders receive proper training.
“There should be some form of qualification,” he added. “It just makes common sense.”
Smith is a retired U.S. Navy chief with 24 years of military service and 12 years in law enforcement.
He is also a certified firearms instructor and regularly trains police officers and military personnel.
Smith has also conducted “reaction force” training seminars at local churches, including at First Baptist Church in Gainesville last week, educating community members about how to respond in a mass shooting situation.
Smith said a weapons carry license should be treated like a hunting license or driver’s license, wherein safety courses and training are required.
Smith said there are four keys to gun safety he explains to all his clients: Treat all guns as if they are loaded, never point at anything you are unwilling to shoot, keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire and be sure of what’s beyond the target you are shooting.
“Trust me,” Smith said, “not everybody should be carrying
Smith acknowledged that some complications might arise from a law requiring training.
For example, how would the government determine who is qualified to train individuals, and what level of training would be required?
Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, said other potential problems could include prohibitive costs for citizens who have a Second Amendment right to own firearms.
“I could not get behind that,” he added. “My father taught me responsible use of firearms. I don’t think there is any weapons safety course that would have averted some of the senseless killings that have occurred around the United States.”
A national carry law that allows license holders to cross state lines with their firearms on person after passing a comprehensive written and shooting examination, something Smith supports, could help alleviate any concerns gun advocates have about the Georgia proposal.
“I am a huge fan of getting training,” Smith said.