Senate passes ‘stand your ground’ gun bill

The state Senate voted 40-13 Thursday to adopt legislation (SB 396) that would allow people who feel physically threatened to use “deadly force” to defend themselves without being held criminally or civilly liable.

Also known as the “stand your ground” or “castle doctrine” bill, SB 396 is one of several measures supported by the NRA that would expand the rights of citizens to use firearms in Georgia.

SB 396 provides that someone who feels physically threatened “has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and use force” to defend themselves. A person who shoots or kills someone in self-defense in such a situation could not be criminally prosecuted or sued for civil damages by the other person or that person’s surviving family members.

“A man’s home is his castle and he can defend that castle by any means necessary,” said Sen. Greg Goggans (R-Douglas), one of the bill’s sponsors. “I want to extend that protection beyond the home, beyond the vehicle, to any place where a law-abiding citizen has a right to be.”

Goggans said the bill “allows a citizen to decide whether to stand their ground or to flee” in a threatening situation. “This legislation puts the law on the side of law-abiding citizens.”

Critics of the bill said it could result in unwarranted shootings and killings by private citizens. Sen. Regina Thomas (D-Savannah) warned her colleagues that they could be shot by a constituent who was angry about the way that lawmaker voted.

“I would be afraid for my own life, walking down the street, because someone doesn’t like me,” Thomas said. “I can’t understand the reason behind this bill and why we’re dong it.”

SB 396 was one of several firearms bills on the Senate calendar for Thursday.

By a 46-1 vote the Senate passed SB 532, which would allow security guards at nuclear power plants to carry firearms and make arrests.

“These are not just ‘rent-a-cop’ security officers,” said Sen. Jim Whitehead (R-Evans). “This bill will further enhance our homeland security.”

Senators also voted 51-1 to adopt HB 1032, which brings Georgia’s handgun registration law into line with federal handgun requirements. HB 1032 requires a police background check on persons who apply for a renewal of their license to carry a handgun.

The Senate voted 50-0 to pass SB 520, which allows a state trooper or sworn law officer who retires from the Department of Public Safety to retain their gun and badge after retirement.

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