Georgia House Republicans on Friday passed a bill that would allow Georgians to carry a concealed handgun without a permit.
The 94-57 vote along party lines follows approval from Georgia's GOP-controlled state Senate last month, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. More debate is expected to reconcile the two versions of the bill.
Gov. Brian Kemp (R) on Friday signaled that he supports the move.
"It's great to see so much support for the 2nd Amendment," Kemp wrote on Twitter. "I am committed to working with both the Georgia House and Senate to get Constitutional Carry across the finish line!"
The Georgia Constitutional Carry Act of 2021 would allow any person deemed a lawful weapons carrier - meaning they are not prohibited by a felony or drug conviction or mental health treatment - can carry a concealed handgun anywhere licensed permit holders can carry a firearm.
State Rep. Shea Roberts, a Democrat representing Atlanta, said ahead of the vote that more than 5,200 concealed and carry permits were denied in 2020, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
"You're wanting to relax what little check we have and why? What for? Because it's inconvenient for law-abiding citizens to fill out a form?" she asked. "I just told you the statistics that more than 5,000 people were denied permits likely because of criminal history and mental health. I mean, we don't know how many people we kept safe by denying those permits."
A number of states are passing "constitutional carry" laws that bypass the permit process for handguns. According to the Pew Research Center, 21 states no longer require residents to hold a permit to carry a concealed firearm.
Six states - Arkansas, Iowa, Montana, Tennessee, Texas and Utah - passed bills last year bypassing the permit process for some firearms.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule this summer on a New York law requiring applicants to demonstrate a special need to qualify for an unrestricted concealed carry permit.