Written by attorney Douglas Brooks Rohan

Georgia Weapons License and its Privileges

The gun shows are packed and most gun stores have bare shelves. If you are a new weapons license holder, have you taken time to study the laws and find out what you can and cannot do?

Because of the popularity of the pistol, the balance of this article will focus on laws concerning handguns. There are separate laws relating to long guns (rifles, shotguns, etc.). The laws surrounding concealed carry are complex.Each gun owner must be familiar with and abide by all relevant gun laws. This article should not be looked at as your legal cliff notes. I am an attorney…that was my disclaimer.

First , what can you do without a weapons license? In Georgia, you can purchase a firearm, transport it in your car, and keep it inside your home and business without a license. While the law previously stated that a gun must be kept in the trunk or enclosed glove box or closed console of your car, that law has been relaxed over recent legislative periods. You can now treat your car as an extension of your house and business and keep the loaded firearm anywhere in the vehicle.

If you choose to carry a weapon on your person outside your home, business, or vehicle, you are required to obtain a license from the probate court where you reside. Approximately 600,000 Georgians are licensed to carry. This allows you to keep your pistol with you at all times, with several significant exceptions:

Government Buildings – this includes any building that houses a governmental entity or where a governmental entity regularly meets to conduct its official business. This would include obvious locations like the courthouse, state mental health facility, or jails, but also includes city hall or county annex buildings, such as the tax assessor’s office.

House of Worship – though there are efforts underway to remove this from the list of prohibited locations, you are not permitted to take your weapon into a church. This became a high profile issue last year when a gunman walked into a Norcross church and shot several attendees of a weekday bible study. Many speculated that the prohibition of weapons emboldened the former employee to commit the offense on the church campus.

Bars – this one is listed, but with an asterisk. The general prohibition against carry in a bar is not absolute. The bar owner has the authority to permit an individual to carry in his bar. However, it must also be noted that it is against the law to discharge a firearm while under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs. So while you may have permission to take your weapon into the bar, you should behave as though you are also the designated driver for the evening. Once you start drinking, your firearm should not be used as a method of defense.

On the premises of Plant Vogtle – you are prohibited from carrying a weapon onto a nuclear power facility. Just thought that was interesting….

Within 150 feet of a polling location – Many locations that are used as a polling place may not have a restriction on non-polling days.

School property – no one under 21 or who is a student at the school may possess a firearm on property used as part of a private or public school. Those over 21 may possess a firearm only if they have a carry license and they are in the process of picking up or dropping off a student.

Businesses that prohibit firearms – your license to carry a firearm does not trump the right of a property owner to deny you the right to carry. Any owner, leaseholder, or valid renter who has legal possession of private property has the right to deny anyone from bringing a weapon onto their property. Be aware of signage that may indicate any prohibitions against weapons, and respect the wishes of those owners. Failing to leave or remove your weapon from the premises can subject to you a charge of trespassing.

If you are a new license holder, it is incumbent upon you to know the laws. Study them carefully. Most importantly, stay up to date on the changes. There are several local organizations that track legislation and will help you stay informed. I strongly encourage you to join one. It is a good idea totrain regularly by visiting the local firing ranges. Make friends with the staff and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Several even have “tactical" or advance weapons training classes that can help you become a safer gun owner.

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