Updated at 1:00 p.m ET
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law Wednesday radical new gun legislation that will allow licensed owners to carry firearms into more public places than at any time in the past century, including government buildings, bars, and a wide variety of public places.
The law, called the “Safe Carry Protection Act,” allows churches to “opt-in” to permit weapons, school districts to appoint staff carrying firearms, and requires bars to opt out if they wish to ban firearms, NBC reports. Gun owners caught at airport security checkpoints can pick up their weapons and leave with no criminal penalty.
Critics have called the new legislation the “Guns Everywhere Bill,” and gun control groups including Americans for Responsible Solutions and Mayors Against Illegal Guns have strongly criticized the bill, as has the executive director of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, Frank Rotondo. “Police officers do not want more people carrying guns on the street,” said Rotondo, “particularly police officers in inner city areas.”
Proponents of the law say, however, that it strengthens the Second Amendment and will make people safer. “When we limit a Georgian’s ability to carry a weapon — to defend themselves — we’re empowering the bad guys,” said Georgia state Rep. Rick Jasperse, who introduced the bill.
Eight states have loosened gun regulations since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. in December 2012, while 10 states have strengthened regulations, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.