With the shock of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre still hanging over the nation, a panel discussion Wednesday about Georgia gun laws evolved from an academic exercise into an urgent debate among lawmakers, policy experts and legal scholars.
The only panelist echoing President Barack Obama's call for more gun control was a gun control advocate from Washington, and the speakers' comments showed that few changes can be expected in Georgia.
"Don't expect the needle to move too much in any one direction," said state Rep. Scott Holcomb, a Democratic lawyer from Atlanta and an Army veteran who was endorsed by the National Rifle Association.
Peter Canfield, a partner at Dow Lohnes and moderator of the fifth annual event, noted, "When we started organizing this year's conference months ago, the first question that was raised was, 'Is there anything new to talk about?'"
"That's not the case now," he said.
The program was hosted by the liberal American Constitution Society Georgia Chapter, the gun rights group GeorgiaCarry.org and the Institute of Continuing Legal Education in Georgia.
Panelists discussed a host of gun control proposals that have been floated since the deaths of 20 elementary school children and eight adults in Connecticut on Friday. Among the ideas were limits on firearms' magazine capacity and the resurrection of a ban on assault weapons. Whatever regulations come to fruition will likely face considerable scrutiny as the acceptable limitations to the Second Amendment's right to bear arms are still somewhat squishy.
Georgia State University law professor emeritus L. Lynn Hogue, a former general counsel of the conservative Southeastern Legal Foundation, focused on two recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions: District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), which upheld the right of "law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home," and McDonald v. City of Chicago, 561 U.S. 3025 (2010), which held that the Second Amendment applied to individual states.
Hogue said the two rulings left many questions unanswered about standard for review.
"They told us more about what was not going to be the case than what was going to be the case," Hogue said. "The standard for review of state laws regulating firearms would not be rational basis review, because there's not much point to having the amendment if all the law had to do was be rational. It was not going to be a balancing test [which the court rejected], and it was not going to be strict scrutiny. So, for those who are good at guessing multiple-choice answers, then the answer would probably be intermediate scrutiny."