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Georgia’s Firearm Expansion Law and What It Means For Residents  

On July 1, Georgia House Bill 60, the “Safe Carry Protection Act” of 2014 went into effect. Given the nickname the “guns everywhere bill,” the law specifies where Georgia residents are permitted to carry concealed weapons. This law has expanded that right in many ways, but what does it mean for you?

The new law makes it illegal for police to perform random checks for weapons permits. When authorities are unable to confirm that someone has the legal right to carry a weapon, those without a license to carry may be emboldened to do so. And as Georgia doesn’t require applicants to undergo firearm safety training before obtaining a license, this could leave the greater population more vulnerable to gun injuries. With gun rights a hot topic of debate and traditional lifestyle for many of us in the South, this law can leave quite an impression on Georgia communities.

Slight changes in the law can lead to much confusion and concern for the following parties:

Travelers
Travelers are permitted to carry concealed weapons around the airport, but not through security clearance. Carrying guns is already a safety concern at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which holds the title for world’s busiest airport.

Bar Regulars
Alcohol frequently accompanies gun violence. That is indisputable. Allowing guns in bars can be scary, especially in a space where there is already a tendency for violence. This law could potentially have no affect, since guns are currently already allowed in restaurants with full bars. But adding weapons to the equation of inebriated patrons plus hostility could be a recipe for disaster. Where altercations often happen in parking lots, if violence should happen right on premises, these new laws could place even more patrons at risk. In a state where the Stand Your Ground Law still stands, this could prove destructive.

If a bar decides to condemn weapons in their establishment, bar owners can take a proactive approach by refusing service to anyone who refuses to respect their requests. Even with this advantage, the bill remains vague about the responsibilities and rights of bar owners.

Religious Congregations
Previous gun law stated that weapons were illegal in all houses of worship. The new law leaves the issue open for clergy leaders to decide.

Students and Educators
If the school board approves, school personnel may vote to favor specific members of faculty to bear arms. One concern with school-approval is that school boards will be using additional resources to handle business outside their knowledge. They would be required to create their own standards and regulate their own background checks. Unsurprisingly, many schools have made it clear that they don’t want weapons on their campuses.

Patients and Patrons of Government Buildings
Under the new law, having security at all entrances is about the only measure a government building can take to prevent guns from entering. This leaves city halls, libraries, and recreation centers, as open spaces for gun-carriers. While some buildings, nursing homes, and hospitals have security, very few have the financial resources to screen for weapons at all entrances.

Privately owned hospitals such as Emory and Piedmont Atlanta Hospital do not have to comply with the law. This exclusion also applies to facilities with inpatient mental health units like Grady Memorial Hospital.

While signs may be posted to inform the public that weapons are banned, the greatest challenge to HB60 is that other than the occasional $25-100 fine, the gun law includes no specific consequences for those who choose to ignore signs that ban weapons and who decide to bring them anyway. If city officials, owners, and leaders continue to be in the dark about laws, they could be vulnerable to lawsuits.

The Intersection of the Stand Your Ground Law

The “Safe Carry Protection Act” builds on and expands Georgia’s “Stand Your Ground” law. The Stand Your Ground law protects any person from criminal prosecution if s/he kills another in self-defense.

Exceptions to the Stand-Your-Ground Law used to include:
(1) Those who discharged a firearm while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
(2) Convicted felons and probationers who possessed firearms.
(3) Those who carried weapons in bars, government buildings, and places of worship.
The expansion of the gun law now protects those parties.

Every year thousands of people are killed and injured in incidents involving guns. These occurrences happen equally amongst unlawful weapons holders and law-abiding legal gun owners. In 2010, the cost of U.S. injuries from firearms was about $174 billion, including lost work and medical care (CDC, 2010). If you or someone you know has been injured by a gun, you may be entitled to compensation. For legal counsel, timing is key to the success of your case. Don’t wait another minute. Call us at 404.MCALEER.