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Georgia's new weapons law – what is it, how does it affect you?

Alpharetta Police respond to questions

May 14, 2014
ATLANTA – On April 23, Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law House Bill 60, otherwise known as the "Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014." This is undoubtedly one of the most sweeping firearms legislation changes in Georgia to date.

H.B. 60 was passed with strong majorities in both the House and the Senate, and will take effect July 1.

The day prior to the bill being signed, a Georgia firearms permit holder was observed with an exposed holstered pistol in a Forsyth County park. The park contained a large number of children participating in sporting events as well as their parents and guests.

Although the permit holder was exercising his legal right to carry a firearm in a county park and not found to be doing anything illegal, the confusion surrounding his actions generated a great deal of concern by community members and others routinely attending park events.

The recent changes in firearms legislation brought about by H.B. 60 will affect how law enforcement professionals interact with people choosing to exercise their right to legally carry firearms and other weapons in public places, including our city parks and recreational facilities. We hope to address some common questions and misconceptions about current firearms legislation and the recent changes brought about by H.B. 60, with specific emphasis on legislative aspects directly affecting Alpharetta parks and recreation users.

What is a Georgia weapons carry license?

In general, to carry a handgun either openly or concealed in Georgia (other than on their property or inside their home, car or place of business), or a knife designed for offense and defense with a blade length of over 5 inches, a person must possess a valid Georgia weapons carry license. There are exceptions, such as for exempt people employed as peace officers, district attorneys, judges, wardens and people in the military service of the state or of the United States.

What if I possess a weapons carry license or permit from another state?

Georgia law also recognizes the weapons licenses of Georgia non-residents for which Georgia has a reciprocal relationship with their home state. These weapons license permit holders must abide by the weapons laws of Georgia when they are in Georgia.

Can someone with a weapons license walk around Alpharetta parks or recreational areas with an openly carried firearm?

Georgia law does not prohibit weapons license holders from possessing firearms or other weapons in city or county parks.

Provided that they are not engaged in some other illegal activity within the park, a person with a weapons license can visit an Alpharetta park while exercising their right to bear arms in either an open or concealed fashion.

Isn't a person with a weapons license supposed to carry their weapon in a holster, concealed from view? Especially in a public park where there may be children present?

In Georgia, weapons license holders may carry any weapon openly or concealed in any non-prohibited location in accordance with Georgia law.

Although it is a good idea to do so, there is no legal requirement for weapons to be carried in any type of holster.

Suppose I see an openly armed person walking along a trail at Webb Bridge Park. Since I have no idea if they have a weapons license, or whether they are a convicted felon, can I request that the police respond to check this person out?

It goes without saying that the safety and security of Alpharetta residents and visitors is of paramount concern to us. That being understood, Georgia law maintains that law-abiding Georgia residents and non-residents possessing weapons licenses have the right to freely visit locations in our state, while armed, that are not deemed off-limits by state or federal law.

While the law clearly states that weapons license holders shall have their valid weapons carry license in their immediate possession at all times when carrying a weapon, this does not mean that law enforcement can detain an armed person (such that they are not free to leave) simply to check whether they are in compliance with this requirement.

Outside of a voluntary casual conversation between the officer and the armed person, the officer must have reasonable articulable suspicion, based on more than just the simple possession of the firearm.

If an officer finds no reasonable suspicion of illegal activity, then outside of a voluntary conversation with the individual, there is very little that an officer can compel a law-abiding armed person to do.

Can people walk around with loaded rifles and shotguns in city parks when there are lots of people around?

If a person is not prohibited by law from possessing a firearm, such as a convicted felon, they may carry a long gun (like a rifle or shotgun) in locations that are not off-limits, such as public parks.

The big difference here is that you do not have to have any kind of permit or license to carry a long gun as long as you are not prohibited from owning a firearm.

Let's say I see an armed person sitting on a bench at the park who is cursing and yelling obscenities at each passerby. Every now and then, I see him remove a small gun from his pocket and then put it away again, but does not point it at anyone. In light of the new firearms laws, what can the police do about this individual?

The new firearm legislation does nothing to limit law enforcement's ability to detain and investigate armed persons for which they have reasonable suspicion that these persons have been, currently are or are about to engage in illegal activity.

In this particular example, if officers find reasonable articulable suspicion that this armed person has been acting in a disorderly fashion or they witness his disorderly behavior, Georgia law permits us to detain this person to investigate them further.

This investigation would include, amongst other aspects, a check of the person's identity and warrant status, as well as their eligibility to possess a firearm and whether they have a weapons carry license in their immediate possession.

Officers will also determine whether probable cause exists indicating that this person has violated one or more criminal laws, and if so, determine whether an arrest should occur.

RN 05-15-14

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Tags: Government & News & Crime

  1. report print email
    Uneasy feeling
    May 14, 2014 | 12:13 PM

    Frankly, I feel uneasy around any person with a gun unless I know that person and have reason to believe he is normal. If I see a stranger walking around with a gun, I make sure to keep my distance and get away as soon as possible. I would not pick an argument with them. If they are walking around with an unconcealed weapon they are likely crazy. I imagine that reasonable gun owners understand this and will not be walking around with guns wherever they go. The chances of an accident are just to high.

    An observer
    Johns Creek
  2. report print email
    May 15, 2014 | 10:04 AM

    I was very happy the day this bill was signed. Finally the government is giving us back some rights rather than taking them away! With that said,it's clear I don't agree with the previous comment. I am genuinely curious as to how you could believe that anyone walking around with an unconcealed weapon is "likely crazy"? What's more is that you go on to say responsible gun owners don't walk around with it wherever they go. All I can say is wow!Do you realize that a large number of those who do carry a concealed weapon do indeed carry it wherever they are legally allowed to? They don't have guns just because they look cool.. they serve a purpose as protection. Why would they buy something for personal protection and then not have it on their person? And also, responsible gun owners are just that..responsible. The chance for incidents are actually lower. Most gun accidents occur with people who haven't learned about guns or how to properly handle one.

  3. report print email
    Common Sense
    May 15, 2014 | 10:21 AM

    While I do not agree with the "observer" above that anyone openly carrying a weapon is necessarily crazy, I do believe that, unless a citizen is trying to be particularly vocal in exercising his or her gun rights in a specific circumstance, it is wrong for him or her to "open carry" simply because open carry defeats the purpose of carrying a gun, in the sense that it removes the element of surprise and puts the carrier at a disadvantage vis-a-vis the attacker or a criminal that needs to be stopped.

    Johns Creek
  4. report print email
    Uneasy feeling
    May 15, 2014 | 06:59 PM

    Uneasy feeling observer from Johns Creek is most likely the one that's not "normal." To be more fearful of a law abiding citizen carrying a gun, than a potential criminal taking his/her life or property is quite "abnormal." More importantly, our second amendment rights are for protection against the government...despite what many want you to believe. If they can fool you into thinking it's only for protection against criminals, then obviously (in their view) hire enough police officers and there's no need for citizens to have protection from criminals. Nice neat package to then remove your rights for protection against a tyrannical government.

  5. report print email
    Re: Uneasy feeling
    May 16, 2014 | 11:20 PM

    To "An observer" above - Your statements are incorrect. I was not that person in the park that day but I do carry a self-defense weapon. The right of self-defense is a fundamental human right that comes before anything else. The right of self-defense (according to U.S. law) is the right for civilians acting on their own behalf to engage in a level of violence, called reasonable force or defensive force, for the sake of defending one's own life OR the lives of others.

    Obviously you have never been a victim of a crime that required you to defend yourself nor have you ever witnessed a potentially life-threatening assault on a victim(s) of such a crime. If you had been exposed to such an event you would not write what you did above.

    JC Citizen
    Johns Creek
  6. report print email
    May 20, 2014 | 04:01 PM

    You know, I think that most people value the second amendment. But reason has to enter the picture somewhere. Who wants guns in churches? Who wants drunks in bars pulling out guns? Anyone? Who wants armed folks wandering around in our parks. Does anyone? That is insane. It will backfire. No pun intended.

  7. report print email
    Wrong move by the state. Period
    May 22, 2014 | 01:59 PM

    A few weeks ago, we had some nucklehead "exercise his right" to carry a gun around our park during a 6yr old soccer game. The game was immediately cancelled and everyone except the gun carrying nucklehead left the park. If you are using a gun to protect yourself or feel some sort of confidence-you are pathetic...take karate, buy a dog, use your fists or pay taxes for more cops. This is one of the dumbest laws in the history of our country.

  8. report print email
    Go pound sand, BC...
    May 26, 2014 | 10:01 PM

    We *WILL* own guns because many times a dog and karate do not stop a crazy drugged out criminal. Only a bullet will. You and your argument are pathetic. If you don't like the gun law, then LEAVE and go to one of the many blue ares of the nation with a high level of gun violence. I'd recommend starting with looking at Obama's Chicago, where guns a very difficult to obtain legally, let alone get a CCW permit in.

  9. report print email
    Difficult Times for Parks & Rec
    June 02, 2014 | 06:39 PM

    While I hold a permit to conceal and carry, I also work for a recreation facility. I agree with many of you that it is nice to give a freedom back to the people.. AKA churches, businesses and the like. However, this public carry HB 60 will be a tough and public battle for those of us who work in the recreation field. There are not many mom's and dad's out there who want their 4 year old running around the dugout with a coach who has a firearm on him. The downside to this law is that we as rec employees cannot stop him or ask her to leave it in their vehicle. Also many departments are being told as employee you cannot carry your firearm to work. This puts us P

  10. report print email
    June 03, 2014 | 11:17 AM

    JK...pls pls pls educate yourself. Georgia is 10th in Gun Murders per 100,000...Illinois is 22nd. Care to know the top 10?? DC, LA, MO, MD, SC, MI, DE, MS, FL & GA....gee where is NJ, NY, MA, OH, PA, CT?...So basically, now that you can carry your gun anywhere in GA, do you really expect that rating to go down?? Common sense, especially for someone who lives in Milton..are there really a lot of gun carrying crazy drugged out criminals in Milton?? Education my friend. Its nice seeing the list of places that won't let you in now if you have a weapon growing...good luck being a hermit

  11. report print email
    June 03, 2014 | 11:17 AM

    JK...pls pls pls educate yourself. Georgia is 10th in Gun Murders per 100,000...Illinois is 22nd. Care to know the top 10?? DC, LA, MO, MD, SC, MI, DE, MS, FL & GA....gee where is NJ, NY, MA, OH, PA, CT?...So basically, now that you can carry your gun anywhere in GA, do you really expect that rating to go down?? Common sense, especially for someone who lives in Milton..are there really a lot of gun carrying crazy drugged out criminals in Milton?? Education my friend. Its nice seeing the list of places that won't let you in now if you have a weapon growing...good luck being a hermit

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