ATLANTA (MyFOX Atlanta) -- Starting Tuesday, Georgians with gun permits will be able to bring their firearms in restaurants that serve alcohol, aboard public transportation and in state parks.
The gun measure is of one of more than 100 new laws set to take effect on the July 1 start of the fiscal year. Critics and supporters alike say it's the largest expansion of gun rights in Georgia in decades.
The measure passed in the final hours of this year's rancorous legislative session, stunning some in the business community who thought it was dead for the year.
Gov. Sonny Perdue signed the bill into law without comment in May.
Critics say it could increase gun violence in the state.
But supporters maintain the law only applies to permitted gun owners who have undergone a criminal background check. There are roughly 300,000 such permit holders in Georgia.
With the new law set to allow guns into more public places, education efforts were under way.
Officials at MARTA, metro Atlanta's mass transit system, said they've been passing out fliers letting riders know about the change. But there are no plans to increase security on rail and bus lines. A study of other city transit systems where guns have been permitted have shown no notable changes in the crime rate, according to Scott Haggard, MARTA's director of government relations.
Ron Wolf, head of the Georgia Restaurant Association, said his group has been busy letting his 3,400 members know about the changes. The law allows restaurants to ban guns, but they must post a sign outlining their policy. Wolf said many restaurant owners are worried and there's been interest from some in keeping guns out. Still, he expects that many will wait to see how the law works before making a decision that could alienate gun-toting customers.
Becky Kelley, director of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites, said her biggest challenge may be in letting Georgians know that the new law applies in only 52 of the 63 state parks. The other 11 are on land leased from federal agencies. Federal law applies there so firearms will still be banned, she said.
Kelley said the department has been working with rangers to get them up to speed.
"We're letting our people know that there may be more citizens with firearms on the property
," Kelley said.
The new law also allows employees to leave guns locked in their car at work, but only if their employer consents. The National Rifle Association had pushed hard for language that would have forced companies to allow guns in workplace parking lots. But they faced resistance from the Georgia Chamber of Commerce which succeeded in watering down the measure.
The new law takes effect in Georgia just days after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision affirming Americans' constitutional right to own a gun.
More changes could be in the horizon in Georgia. A legislative study committee has been set up to study the state's firearms law and is charged with making recommendations by January 2009. The chairman of the committee, state Sen. Mitch Seabaugh, R-Sharpsburg, is a staunch gun rights supporter.