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Q&A – Georgia Carry director discusses new gun law

Decatur Metro ATL

Q&A – Georgia Carry director discusses new gun law

Illustration. Wikimedia Commons.

Illustration. Wikimedia Commons.

There have been numerous questions about the meaning and implications of a new law that expands the rights of gun owners in Georgia.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed House Bill 60 on April 23. It has been called the “guns everywhere” bill by its critics. Deal’s Democratic opponent in the upcoming elections, State Sen. Jason Carter, D-Decatur, also voted for the bill. The law takes effect July 1.

Since that time, there’ve been confusing and conflicting accounts about the bill’s effect. One of the more controversial provisions of the bill expands carry rights to bars and churches, unless the owners of these establishments say guns aren’t allowed. While some Decatur businesses took a stance on it, it technically doesn’t apply here since Decatur doesn’t have bars, only restaurants that serve alcohol. Also, the bill forbids bans on gun ownership in public housing. But that won’t affect public housing in Georgia, because no housing authority here has such a ban.

So what exactly does this bill do again? A Decatur resident sent over a list of questions and Decaturish sent those questions to Jerry Henry, Executive Director of Georgia Carry, an organization that supported the bill.

Here are his answers to the questions:

The answers are a little wordy, but I feel that some explanation needs to accompany the answers rather than a simple yes or no.

The answers below refer to handguns. Long guns (rifle or shotgun) do not require Georgia Weapons Licenses to carry. All off limits locations apply to long guns as well as handguns. The only restriction on carrying a long gun is if it is loaded, it cannot be carried concealed (in a case, behind the seat of a vehicle, etc.) unless the person carrying the long gun has a valid Georgia Weapons License.

Was it illegal to carry a firearm in a bar prior to the passage of the law?

It was and is until July 1, 2014, illegal to carry a firearm into a bar without the permission of the owner. With permission of the bar owner, it is legal and has been since June 2010.

Is it true that police cannot ask to see the carry permit?

In order for a policeman to detain anyone for any reason, he must have reasonable articular suspicion (he must be able to explain in a court of law why he stopped you) or probable cause (a crime has been committed and the officer has reason to believe you might be the one who committed it). Absent either of those items, he is not supposed to detain anyone for anything. So yes, that is true. However, police can ask you anything they want to ask you. It is up to you whether you comply or not.

The Supreme Court has ruled on multiple occasions that there is no exception for firearms in the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution. Also, the Georgia Weapons License is an element of the crime, meaning if there is no probable cause or reasonable articular suspicion, there is no valid reason for a law officer to ask for the license.

The courts have also ruled that the presence of a firearm does not mean that a crime has been or is about to be committed. We have now codified those rulings into our state law. After July 1, 2014, it will be against state law for a policeman to detain you simply to determine if you have a valid Georgia Weapons License, absent reasonable articular suspicion or probable cause.

This is very similar to a driver’s license. A policeman cannot stop someone who is driving down the road just to see if they have a valid driver’s license. They must have probable cause or reasonable articular suspicion. That is why the police will follow you, sometimes for great distances, waiting for you to do something illegal so they then have a reason to stop you.

Was it illegal to carry in a church prior to this law?

It is presently illegal for anyone to carry a firearm in a place of worship in GA for anyone who is not listed as exempt under GA Code Section 16-11-130. This exemption applies to law enforcement officers, judges, military personnel, district attorneys, and many others but does not include citizens who are over 21, have had background checks complete with fingerprints, by the FBI, GBI, and mental health checks and hold a valid Georgia Weapons License but are still deemed to be unworthy of government privileges.

And, finally, with regards to the legality of all locations, is it legal only for people with carry permits or anyone?

In Georgia, now and after HB60 goes into effect, one WITHOUT a Georgia Weapons License may carry or have a firearm in his/her vehicle, in his/her home or on his/her property and at his/her place of business, provided he/she has permission of the owner of the business unless the person is exempt under GA Code Section 16-11-130.

It is also legal to carry a handgun with a valid hunting or fishing license when one is hunting or fishing on property they have permission to hunt or fish on as well as to and from such property.

Other than that, one must have a valid Georgia Weapons License in order to carry a handgun. Again, long guns do not require permits to carry but may not be carried into any location listed as off limits.