In Georgia, it will soon be legal to carry a gun in more places - including bars, churches, and government buildings - after Gov. Nathan Deal on Wednesday signed a bill celebrated by supporters as a victory for the Second Amendment but decried by critics as the "guns-everywhere bill."

"We Georgians believe in the right of people to defend themselves, and we believe in the Second Amendment," Deal said.

The Safe Carry Protection Act, which takes effect July 1, will let licensed gun owners take firearms into houses of worship if the congregation allows it, into bars unless the owner objects, into nonsecure areas of airports, and into government buildings, except past security checkpoints.

Jerry Henry, executive director of, a group that pushed for the bill's passage, said by phone that the law will "give the law-abiding citizen more protection in more places."

The law also forbids the confiscation of firearms during an emergency, a response to authorities taking guns in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The measure also offers defendants an "absolute defense" in court if a gun is used in the face of a violent attack.

Deal said the legislation would "protect law-abiding citizens by expanding the number of places they can carry their guns." The governor received 3,012 letters, e-mails, and phone calls urging him to sign the bill and 1,887 asking him to veto it, according to his office.

"To say that we're disappointed is an understatement," Kathryn Grant, Georgia state director of the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus, said in an interview.

Deal's signing of the bill had been expected, given that the Republican governor has an A rating from the NRA and is up for reelection. His Democratic challenger, State Sen. Jason Carter, former President Jimmy Carter's grandson, also supported the bill.