updated 7/14/2008 7:29:16 PM ET 2008-07-14T23:29:16

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue said Monday that guns should be allowed in public areas of the nation's busiest airport.

And he suggested his own wife might want to pack a firearm for long walks between the parking lot and the terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International.

"If my wife wanted to carry a gun, if she was going from the parking lot, walking from one of those far parking lots to pick up a grandchild or something like that, I think that's a good idea, yes," he said Monday.

Earlier this year, Perdue, a Republican, signed legislation that allows Georgians who have passed criminal background checks to carry concealed weapons onto mass transit, as well as into state parks and restaurants that serve alcohol. The new law took effect July 1.

A legal battle quickly erupted over whether the law applies to public areas of Hartsfield-Jackson before travelers pass through security checkpoints.

'Gun-free zone'
On the day the new law took effect, Atlanta officials who oversee the airport declared it a "gun-free zone" and said anyone carrying a gun there could be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor. Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin argued that allowing guns could endanger people because airports remain attractive targets for terrorism.

Gun rights supporters filed a federal lawsuit challenging the designation, saying the airport qualifies as mass transportation and has restaurants that should be accessible under the new law.

Perdue said Monday he hasn't asked his legal counsel for guidance and was simply offering his own "lay opinion."

An airport official referred calls to the office of Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, where a message was left seeking comment.

The law's sponsor, state Rep. Tim Bearden, called Perdue's comments "right on the money."

"People have a right to defend themselves. That is what this law is about," said Bearden, a Republican and former police officer.

A spokesman for Perdue said the governor has a gun permit but his wife does not.

A hearing is scheduled Aug. 11 in U.S. District Court for the lawsuit filed by GeorgiaCarry.org, which wants a restraining order to keep the airport from enforcing the gun ban.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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