ELLIJAY, Ga. -- Criticized by one group as the "guns everywhere" bill, Georgia took a big step Wednesday toward expanding where licensed carriers can take their weapons, with the governor signing a law that allows them in bars without restriction and in some churches, schools and government buildings under certain circumstances.
Following mass shootings in recent years, some states have pursued stronger limits on guns while others like Georgia have taken the opposite path, with advocates arguing that people should be allowed to carry weapons as an issue of public safety. Republicans control large majorities in the Georgia General Assembly, and the bill passed overwhelming despite objections from some religious leaders and local government officials.
A few hundred gun rights supporters gathered at an outdoor pavilion along a river in north Georgia in the town of Ellijay for the bill signing by Gov. Nathan Deal and a barbecue. Many sported "Stop Gun Control" buttons and several had weapons holstered at their side. House Speaker David Ralston offered a thinly veiled critique of those who might oppose the bill while describing the people of his district.
The bill makes several changes to state law and takes effect July 1. Besides in bars without restrictions, guns could be brought into some government buildings that don't have certain security measures, such as metal detectors or security guards screening visitors. Religious leaders would have the final say as to whether guns can be carried into their place of worship.
May demand compensation: Victims of child pornography whose images of sexual abuse have circulated on the Internet may demand compensation from every person caught downloading and possessing the illegal images, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday. But justices set aside a $3.4 million restitution order handed down against a Texas man on behalf of one victim, ruling that a single defendant who possesses the pornography may not be forced to pay the full amount of damages due to the victim.
Invites inmates to seek clemency: The Justice Department on Wednesday unveiled the most ambitious federal clemency program in 40 years, inviting thousands of jailed drug offenders and other convicts to seek early release as part of a new program intended to correct sentencing injustices and relieve prison overcrowding. Though eligibility restrictions may limit how many prisoners are ultimately released to several hundred, experts said they had not seen such a sweeping use of presidential clemency power to achieve a policy goal since President Gerald Ford's amnesty for Vietnam draft dodgers in the 1970s.
Ousted amid lewd conduct allegations: A former commanding officer of the famed Blue Angels aerial demonstration team was relieved of duty amid allegations of "lewd speech, inappropriate comments, and sexually explicit humor" and pornography, the Navy said Wednesday. Last week the Navy announced that Capt. Gregory McWherter had been relieved of duty as executive officer of Naval Base Coronado because of initial findings of an investigation into misconduct during his tours as commander and flight leader of the Blue Angels. In making that announcement, the Navy provided no explanation of the misconduct except that it made for an "inappropriate command climate" at the Blue Angels, which are based at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla.
Complete urgent repair job: Spacewalking astronauts easily replaced a dead computer outside the International Space Station on Wednesday and got their orbiting home back up to full strength. The two Americans on board, Rick Mastracchio and Steven Swanson, hustled through the urgent repair job, swapping out the computers well within an hour. The new one tested fine. The removed computer, a critical backup, failed nearly two weeks ago. The prime computer has been working perfectly, but NASA wanted to install a fresh spare as soon as possible. Mission Control waited until after the arrival of a capsule full of fresh supplies Sunday.
FDA to begin regulating e-cigarettes: The Food and Drug Administration plans to begin regulating electronic cigarettes for the first time, banning sales to minors and requiring manufacturers to put health warnings on the nicotine-delivering devices that have become a multibillion-dollar industry, according to officials who described the agency's proposal. But the agency will stop short of steps that many public health advocates and some members of Congress have called for, including restrictions on television advertisements and flavorings, such as pumpkin spice or chocolate, that may target younger consumers, officials said. The agency plans to announce the new rule today.