Guns are already allowed in restaurants that serve alcohol, said Powell, chairman of the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.

"Frankly, what's the difference between a restaurant that serves alcohol and a bar?" he asked.

"We didn't mandate that you can carry a weapon into a church. What we said is if a church, minister, deacons or whoever, if they want to allow someone to bring a weapon into that church, that's their business."

While a provision allowing guns on college campuses was left out, another controversial aspect of the law is its expansion of the right to use deadly force in self-defense under the state's so-called stand-your-ground defense.

But Ed Stone, a board member of, an Atlanta-based guns-rights group, said those who carry firearms illegally can still be prosecuted under the law.

The stand-your-ground and new gun laws were the topics of discussion Wednesday night at a public discussion hosted by Savannah State University at the Coastal Georgia Center on Fahm Street. About 65 people attended the event that featured a panel of academics and attorneys, including Stone and District Attorney Meg Heap.

"Stand-your-ground law affects all of us and must be understood as part of a broader discussion or dialogue with citizens, academics, young people, public officials and other stake holders in our community," said Larry Stewart, a Savannah State associate professor of criminal justice.