Carrying Firearms in Georgia: The Controversy and the Law
Georgia has permissive gun laws. Georgia’s laws resemble western states like Wyoming more than other eastern states. Passage of Georgia’s recent gun law has caused controversy—the law’s advocates and its detractors have disagreed sharply. Proponents of gun rights praised Georgia’s passage of SB60 in 2014, calling it the “most comprehensive pro-gun reform legislation introduced in recent history”. At the same time, an AJC poll found that many Georgians opposed the expanded gun rights represented by the Safe Carry Protection Act, the name by which SB60 was known. It has now been a little more than a year since the Safe Carry Act went into effect.
First, a brief review of who can carry what, open or concealed:
- A Georgia Weapons License (GWL) holder can open-carry or concealed-carry any legal firearm in any location not off limits (examples of off-limits buildings include courthouses, certain government buildings, & nuclear facilities).
- Any person legally eligible under the Brady Bill to possess a firearm may carry any legal firearm (open or concealed) in his/her home, vehicle, or place of business .
- Any person legally eligible to obtain a GWL, whether having one or not, may carry any legal firearm in another person’s vehicle.
- Anyone legally eligible to possess a firearm may carry a long gun (shotgun or rifle, including high powered/semi-automatic) in any area not off-limits (examples of off-limits buildings include courthouses, certain government buildings, & nuclear facilities).
There are restrictions regarding the ability to bring firearms into schools, places of worship, workplaces and commercial spaces, largely based upon the preference of the owner or operator. If allowed by the owner, a GWL holder can carry into a bar or nightclub, but cannot consume alcohol while doing so. Notably, despite the requirement that a GWL holder carry his/her permit whenever armed, the law also prohibits anyone, including law enforcement, from asking an individual to show his or GWL unless he or she is in the process of committing a crime.
Anyone—responsible gun owners, as well as those who are unarmed—can be involved in instances of accidental discharge, misfiring, stolen/misused weapon or any number of unintended situations that may require legal advice or representation. Consider, for instance, a defective handgun that breaks apart while in use at a target range. Not only is the user injured, but the instructor standing next to her is also struck by flying pieces of hot metal and plastic that cause severe cuts, bleeding, nerve damage & scarring. If the firearm was defective, a product liability claim against the manufacturer may be appropriate.
Georgia’s Safe Carry Protection Act prohibits law enforcement from detaining someone for the sole purpose of determining whether he or she has a GWL. Therefore, any detention or inquiry regarding a gun carrier’s license status is improper unless the carrier is witnessed committing a crime. A wrongful arrest or detention may be a violation of civil rights or other law; and if such an arrest results in a loss of income, damages one’s reputation or causes other injury, you should consult with an attorney.
Georgia does not require any training or competency testing to obtain a GWL. Therefore, it is important to remember that just because someone is licensed to carry, it does not mean that they are well informed about gun safety or follow proper practices. In August 2014, a Texas woman visiting Helen, Georgia was killed by a stray bullet. A Jasper, GA man with a GWL accidentally discharged his handgun while handling it in or removing it from his pocket, shooting himself in the hand before the bullet traveled across the crowded street striking the 53 year-old tourist, who died at the scene. The deceased woman’s family filed a wrongful death action against the person who shot her.
As everyone knows, gunfire can lead to injury—as happened to a man represented by this firm. Our client was in his car after leaving a restaurant, when he was shot by a newly-trained security guard who opened fire on a busy, crowded Atlanta street. Claims against the security company and others were appropriate in seeking compensation for our client’s injuries.
Although mass-shootings tend to grab headlines, gun issues can affect everyday citizens who never see the media’s attention. The number of citizens who carry guns, or who are affected by guns, is likely to increase as a result of Georgia’s new law. If you or someone you love has been affected by the careless acts of another, the attorneys at Butler Tobin can help.