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Greg Bluestein

John Lewis wants to extend gun revolt to Georgia

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U.S. Rep. John Lewis watches primary returns roll in Tuesday evening March 1, 2016 as Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed speaks to the crowd at a Hillary Clinton watch party at Paschal's Restaurant in Atlanta. Ben Gray / bgray@ajc.com

U.S. Rep. John Lewis in Atlanta. Ben Gray / bgray@ajc.com

For a reminder of the potency of gun control as an election-year issue, look no further than the town hall meeting Wednesday held at Ebenezer Baptist Church.

At center stage was Rep. John Lewis, who orchestrated last week’s headline-grabbing sit-in at the U.S. House, and other Democrats pushing for a vote on new gun restrictions as nothing short of a new phase in the civil rights struggle.

He and his allies made clear that it’s a two-pronged fight in Washington and Atlanta, where they hope to defeat a new version of a high-profile gun rights expansion that was vetoed this year.

“You’re on the right side,” Lewis told a crowd of hundreds of supporters at a cramped room outside the church, the spiritual home of Martin Luther King Jr.

“We’re not going to take it anymore. We’re going to speak up, speak out and pull and push,” he added. “All across America today there are hundreds of members of Congress doing what we’re doing here. It’s a movement and we’re not going to quit.”

Second Amendment activists are readying for a fight. Republican lawmakers, who hold overwhelming advantages in the Georgia Legislature, are looking to bounce back after Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a “campus carry” measure that would allow people to carry concealed weapons onto pubic college campuses.

Jerry Henry of GeorgiaCarry.org, one of the more aggressive gun rights groups in the state, said the civil rights icon was at the center of a “hypocritical” crusade to deprive citizens of their constitutional right to bear arms. Next year, he said, expect a push to expand the places where permitholders can carry their guns to a range of new places.

“The overwhelming majority of these incidents occur in gun-free zones,” he said. “Do away with gun free zones and allow citizens the right to protect themselves if they desire to do so.”