Political Notes – Some local governments push back on gun access

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It has been just two weeks since Gov. Nathan Deal signed the “Guns everywhere” bill into law, but some local church and government entities are already pushing back against the idea that guns should be freely carried in all public places.

In Buford, City Commission Chairman Phillip Beard is asking colleagues to consider the installation of metal detectors and other security measures for official meetings of local governing agencies – without such devices, the new law allows guns to be carried legally in government buildings.

“We had a man with a gun try to walk into our school board meeting last week and we had to call a police officer,” Beard said, as reported by the Gwinnett Daily Post. “We’re going to have to ensure that these meetings are safe.”

In Richmond County, the local school board will be discussing a proposal at their May meeting to keep county schools free of guns. Board of Education President Venus Cain told the Augusta Herald that “weapons have no place in schools and crime fighting should not be a teacher’s responsibility.”

The law signed by Deal allows school boards to grant written permission to teachers, principals and other employees to carry firearms on school grounds after the law takes effect July 1.

“Not in the school house,” Cain said. “I feel like we have so little concern for the next person’s life, that lives aren’t valued anymore. It’s like we’re turning into the wild, wild West where the way people deal with things is we pick up a gun.”

In Atlanta, the leadership of Georgia’s Episcopal and Catholic churches have said their churches will ban all weapons, a move that other church groups may also take.

“Rather than making guns more available as a solution, we need leaders in government and society who will speak against violence in all aspects of life and who teach ways of reconciliation and peace and who make justice, not vengeance, our goal,” Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta wrote in the Georgia Bulletin.

This move to keep guns from being carried in the few public places where they can still be excluded has raised an alarm among the gun carry groups that lobbied for the passage of the firearms bill, HB 60.

D.R. Leonard, political director of Georgia Gun Owners, fired off an email warning people about an effort by Canton city officials to prevent guns from being carried in city hall.

“Disturbing news out of Canton, Georgia this morning,” Leonard wrote recently. “After passage of the recent gun law, Canton Mayor Gene Hobgood is set to discuss tonight at their city council meeting banning guns in City Hall!”

Leonard added: “While you may not care about Canton, Georgia, you should still send an email expressing your disapproval because the actions the Canton City Council may take could be repeated by your local city, town or county. Stop anti-gun actions before they spread statewide!”

At a meeting last week, the Canton City Council was told by City Attorney Bobby Dyer that they may be able to keep guns out of city hall without having to pay the costs of adding security screening measures.

The city hall building includes a municipal courtroom on the first floor and courtrooms are still a place where firearms can be kept out, Dyer told the council. The issue will be discussed again by the council at a later meeting.

Atwood’s concerned about marsh buffers

State Rep. Alex Atwood (R-St. Simons Island) is concerned about a recent decision by Jud Turner, director of Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD), to stop enforcing a 25-foot buffer zone in some of his district’s fragile marshlands.

As reported by the Brunswick News, Atwood sent a letter to Turner inquiring about the issue:

Citing controversy surrounding the old policy in recent years, Turner implemented a new policy, one that does not require a buffer where there is no “wrested vegetation.” Turner contends his new policy is in accordance with the Georgia Erosion and Sedimentation Act.

Atwood, however, wants to know what that means to the marsh, which plays a significant role in the life cycles of 70 percent of the fish commercially harvested in Georgia.

He said the state’s 300,000 acres of salt marsh, which accounts for one-third of the marsh on the entire East Coast, is a multi-million dollar economic engine that includes tourism, fishing and recreation.

He said a buffer is critical in protecting the marsh ecosystem from potentially pollutant-contaminated runoff from driveways, roads, parking lots, roofs and other impervious surfaces.

“The very nature of Georgia’s saltwater marsh is that there typically is no wrested vegetation at the marsh/upland interface,” Atwood wrote. “Wrested vegetation is vegetation that is pulled away by the force of moving water … However, water typically does not flow with enough force on a regular basis in a marsh setting to result in wrested vegetation at the marsh/upland interface.”

Barnard will chair parole board

Former state legislator Terry Barnard of Glennville has been named chairman of the State Board of Pardons and Paroles. Another former House member, James Mills of Gainesville, is the new vice chairman of the board.

© 2014 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Alex Atwood , Augusta school board , Buford City Commission , Canton City Council , Catholic Church , coastal marshland buffers , EPD , gun carry law , local governments , Nathan Deal , Pardons and Parole Board , Terry Barnard