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Georgia House OKs bill to provide gun-related tax credits, prevent tracking of firearm purchases

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Ross Williams, Georgia Recorder
February 28, 2024

The next time you buy a gun safe, trigger lock or take a class on gun safety, you could apply for up to $300 back in tax credits from the state if a bipartisan bill passes the Senate – and if you pick up a new gun to go with it, you may be reasonably sure Swiss bankers did not track your purchase.

The Georgia House passed two pieces of gun legislation Tuesday, teeing them up for a potential vote in the Senate, one with bipartisan agreement and one with partisan rancor.

Safe Storage

The former is Augusta Rep. Mark Newton’s House Bill 971, which sets up a $300 tax credit for safe storage devices or gun safety lessons.

Newton, a Republican, said more people are purchasing guns in recent years because of rising crime, and his bill will encourage them to do so safely.

“It allows them to obtain that firearm training and also to purchase a firearm safe storage device that will allow them to keep the firearm both readily accessible and also secure from children, but even more important, especially from criminal theft, which is fueling much of the gang-related shootings we hear about almost daily,” he said.

Rep. Michelle Au, a Johns Creek Democrat, celebrated from the House podium. Au has pushed other legislation aimed at incentivizing Georgians to purchase gun safes and other safety supplies despite pushback from Republican members and firearm lobbyists.

“This body is on the cusp of demonstrating something remarkable,” she said. “I just want to take a moment to realize that. Just to show that there is a way forward on addressing the issue of gun violence in our communities. Incentivizing secure storage and personal responsibility is something we can agree on. It’s something we can get done together. And it’s a way that we can show that this body and the state can lead on the issue.”

As it turned out, it was something they could mostly agree on. The bill passed 162-3, with Republican Reps. Charlice Byrd and Jordan Ridley of Woodstock as well as Mitchell Horner of Ringgold pressing their red buttons.

Byrd suggested that the storage bill would allow the government to create a covert list of gun owners.

“Is it not true this is a backdoor registry through the Department of Revenue?” she asked.

“No ma’am, I don’t think so,” said Speaker Jon Burns.

Georgia Firearms Industry Nondiscrimination Act

Shutting down a backdoor gun registry is just what the House was aiming for with its other major piece of gun legislation, Chatsworth Republican Rep. Jason Ridley’s House Bill 1018.

Whenever you visit a store and buy something with a credit card, your credit card company tracks a four-digit code that tells them what kind of store you made your purchase at.

If you bought something at a candy, nut or confectionery store, the code 5441 will pop up. If you buy the same treat at a pharmacy or drugstore, the code will be 5912.

These merchant category codes exist for all kinds of businesses, from supermarkets – 5411 – to typewriter stores – 5978 – and they’re thought up by the Geneva-based International Organization for Standardization.

The IOS raised eyebrows among Second Amendment enthusiasts in 2022 when it created a new MCC for firearms retailers (5723).

Ridley was among those with his brow elevated.

“Nobody should know what you’re buying and be keeping a registry, especially for a foreign country that could be distributed to anybody at any time,” he said. “And that’s all this bill does.”

Atlanta Democratic Rep. Shea Roberts said the bill does more than that. She said it takes away the banking industry’s ability to track fraudulent gun purchases and could hinder law enforcement from tracking crimes like straw purchases or catching potential mass shooters by flagging suspicious gun or ammunition purchases.

“Law enforcement officials seeking to identify individuals who are potentially stockpiling weapons could also benefit from this new information,” she said. “This kind of cooperation and information sharing between retail outlets and law enforcement is routine and encouraged across the federal government in related public safety contacts. The FBI, FEMA, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Department of Homeland Security all have trainings, pamphlets and promotional videos emphasizing the importance of retail security awareness.”

Ridley dismissed Democrats’ concerns:

“To put it in scientific terms, I’ve never heard so much bovine fecal matter in my life,” he said.

Most of the House agreed. They passed the bill 106-60 along party lines.

Thursday is Crossover Day, the final day for bills to easily move from one chamber to the next. In order for either of these gun bills to become law, they will need to be approved by the Senate by March 28 and then be signed by Gov. Brian Kemp.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: info@georgiarecorder.com. Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Georgia Recorder under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.