You’ll find lots of self-congratulation — but rarely much news — when a Governor signs a bill into law. But Gov. Nathan Deal’s signing of HB60 — the “guns everywhere” bill — had some entertaining twists. Some observations:
There were perhaps two hundred supporters at the outdoor pavilion along the Coosawattee River in Ellijay to watch. I didn’t see a single person of color.
There were guns everywhere. The holstered handgun was the accessory of choice among supporters.
One supporter held a full-sized old school Georgia flag with the confederate battle emblem. It probably got in every TV story.
House Speaker David Ralston’s statement to the roaring crowd that “it is a community where we cling to religion and guns” was the rhetorical highlight.
When Rep. John Meadows (R-Calhoun) gave a welcoming statement saying he’d “even welcome the news media. (Pause) I’m not sure why,” it was tempting to answer out loud “because you love the first amendment as much as you love the second amendment.” But that would have just started an argument.
Gov. Deal seemed stumped when I asked him three times, in various ways, why guns continue to be banished from the state capitol. Deal is usually pretty nimble on his feet, but he never answered the question. My story on WXIA featured the exchange.
The issue about guns in the capitol was a rare opportunity to ask a challenging question that expressed viewpoints by those for and against broader gun rights. I suspect it will be asked again in the fall debates. Presumably, Gov. Deal (and Sen. Jason Carter, who supported the measure) will have formulated a coherent answer by then.
On the other hand, Greg Bluestein of the AJC and Jonathan Shapiro of WABE radio asked questions that were more relevant to issues raised by the new law. It’s always fun to see a WABE reporter gathering news outside the perimeter.
As he walked to his car, I asked Deal if he was “afraid” to have guns in the capitol. He didn’t answer, and we chose to edit out that question because it sounded disrespectful.
That night, the AJC reported that Carter also dodged a reporter trying to question him about the gun law.
Our video of Gov. Deal walking to his car prominently featured the shoulder of Chris Riley, Deal’s chief of staff. When Riley saw us by the Governor’s black SUV, he positioned himself in front of the camera lens, and leaned into the lens as WXIA photog Luke Carter tried to move to get a clear shot. It was the discreet version of the hand-in-the-lens shot. Riley apologized to Carter afterward. Well played, Riley.
After the event, I ran into two lawmakers at a restaurant who drove from metro Atlanta to support the event. In a poorly phrased question, I asked them if they thought I was “a dick” for raising the issue about guns at the capitol. “Not at all,” one of them said. “That’s what it’s all about.”