Georgia Firearms Laws 101 - Part 1
So you have applied for and received your Georgia Weapons Carry License. Or maybe you've had a license for some time. Good! Congratulations! But hold on - do you know your state laws for legal carry? This is a new feature that will summarize key firearms laws in plain English. In Part 1, we will discuss the off limits areas for licensed carriers.
Note: This is only a summary of key laws and my opinions about them. You must read the actual laws for yourself, and you are advised to seek competent legal counsel for questions about these laws. Nothing you read here can be interpreted as legal advice. YOU are responsible for reading and knowing all local, state, and federal laws regarding ownership, carry, and use of firearms. Find the most current listing of pertinent state laws at this link: http://www.gacarry.org/cms/ga-code/ You can read detailed definitions and penalties for violations there also. (OCGA references: 16-11-126, 16-11-127, 16-11-127.1, 16-11-127.2, 12-3-10, 27-3-1.1, 27-3-6, 16-11-34.1; federal laws ref. from handgunlaw.us)
A word about “OC” versus “CC”: We want everyone to carry, every day and in every legal location permitted to you. We don't care if your preferred carry method is to open carry or conceal your handgun. Georgia law does not specify carry method, and you must have a weapons carry license in order to carry a firearm on your person. However you choose to carry, please keep in mind that the image you project as a licensed carrier should be a positive one. - Don Towers, North Atlanta GeorgiaCarry.org. 2/22/15
Frequently Asked Questions on Off limits Areas for licensed carriers.
Q: What are the off limits areas for firearms carry? (Ref. 16-11-127, 16-11-127.1, 16-11-127.2, 16-11-34.1)
A: The off limits areas by state law are: courthouses; jails; prisons; within 150 feet of polling places; state mental health facilities; nuclear power facilities; schools; places of worship; government buildings in certain cases; state capitol and related buildings.
Q: Can I leave my firearm in my car when visiting off limits locations?
A: Yes, you may secure your firearm in your vehicle for the above locations (except nuclear power facilities where no firearms are permitted at all) when you park in a parking facility, and you possess a weapons carry license. "Secure" means, locking the firearm in a compartment, container, or firearms rack, in your vehicle.
Q: Can I ever carry in a church or place of worship? (Ref. 16-11-127)
A: Yes, with permission. The governing body or authority for the church/place of worship has to give you permission to carry in that location. The statute does not specify how this is done. If you are not sure that you have been given positive permission to carry in a place of worship, you likely don't have that permission.
Q: What is a government building? (Ref. 16-11-127)
A: This is a building that houses a state or local government entity and where the entity conducts its official business. A government entity includes any office, agency, authority, department, commission, board, body, division, instrumentality, or institution for the state, and for any county, consolidated government, municipality, and local board of education. If the building is not publicly owned, it is considered a government building only while the entity is meeting there, or only the portion of the building that is occupied by the entity is considered a government building.
Q: Can I carry in a government building? (Ref. 16-11-127)
A: Yes, you can carry in a state or local government building, when the building is open for business and where ingress into the building is not screened or restricted by security personnel. "Screened or restricted", although not defined in statute, is understood to mean that all persons entering the building will be screened by security personnel for firearms, using devices such as magnetometer, metal detector, or x-ray device, or relying on physical searches. License holders who attempt to enter government buildings that have security screening and have a POST certified law enforcement officer present, would be committing a misdemeanor. License holders are allowed to withdraw and exit without arrest, once they have been notified that they have failed to clear security due to carrying a firearm.
Q: Can I carry into any private businesses, including bars and restaurants? (Ref. 16-11-127)
A: Yes. There is no state law that prohibits carry into any private business, to include those that serve alcohol. However, private business owners and private property owners have the right to prohibit the carry of firearms on their property. A private business owner or his/her representative, such as a manager, if they detect your firearm, have the authority to ask you to leave, or to ask you to remove the firearm from the property. 16-11-127 specifies this, and allows for the business or property owner to eject you, and to use the criminal trespass statute (16-7-21) if you refuse to leave or remove the firearm. If you are asked to leave, you should do so politely and in a reasonable period of time.
Q: Am I allowed to sit at the bar area of a restaurant or bar and have an alcoholic beverage, while carrying?
A: Yes. It is perfectly legal for you to consume alcohol while seated at the bar or at a table, while carrying on your weapons carry license. Of course, like driving and alcohol, you are advised to exercise moderation and discretion, when it comes to guns and alcohol.
Q: Is it lawful to carry a firearm into a location with a "no guns permitted" sign?
A: Yes, if it is not off limits. Georgia state law does not mention "no guns" signage, and there is no inherent force of law in such signs. However, a "no guns" sign may be reminding you that it is an off limits location by state law. Conversely, just because there is no sign at all, does not mean that it still may be an off limits location. As for private businesses with such signage, they are telling you their preference on firearms. You should consider whether you wish to patronize a business that does not want you to be armed.
Q: Can I ever carry at elementary and secondary schools, and at colleges and other post secondary educational institutions? (Ref. 16-11-127.1)
A: Yes, with restrictions. You may carry a firearm on your weapons carry license, while dropping off or picking up a student on a school campus. Use caution: many law enforcement agencies and legal officers interpret this as, keeping the firearm in your vehicle while dropping off or picking up. You may also lock your firearm in your vehicle, when visiting a school campus. If you are a college or post secondary school student and have your weapons carry license, you may keep your firearm in your locked vehicle. Note: a recently passed law, HB826, is in legal dispute as to whether or not it permits licensed carriers to carry firearms anywhere on school campuses. We recommend staying within the above limits, until this legal dispute is settled.
Q: Can I carry at city parks, county parks, and other publicly owned property?
Q: Can I carry at state parks, state Wildlife Management Areas, and state historic sites? (Ref. 12-3-10, 27-3-1.1, 27-3-6)
A: Yes. The only exception is any state park or state area, that is under the control of the Army Corps of Engineers. ACOE property is governed by its own federal law and any carry or possession of firearms at those properties is prohibited.
Q: Can I carry at a U.S. Post Office?
A: No. The carry or possession of loaded firearms is prohibited by federal law in U.S. Post Office buildings and on USPS property.
Q: Can I carry in or on any federal building/federal property?
A: No. Federal buildings, federal courthouses, and federal property in general, by federal law are off limits for carry or possession of firearms.
Q: Can I carry in a National Park or a National Forest?
A: Yes, you can carry in National Parks and National Forests, in the state of Georgia. However, you are prohibited from carrying in buildings where employees work, as these are federal buildings. There may also be other off limits areas indicated by signs.
Q: Can I carry at airports? (Ref. 16-11-130.2)
A: Yes, you can carry in the unsecured areas of airports in Georgia. If you accidentally carry a firearm into a security checkpoint and you are licensed, you will be permitted to withdraw without arrest, after completing security procedures. However, you may still be subject to federal fines from the TSA.
Q: Can I carry on MARTA and similar public transportation? (Ref. 16-11-126)
A: Yes. With possession of weapons carry license, you may carry onto MARTA buses and trains, and on similar public transportation in Georgia as long as it is not against federal law.
Q: Can I have my firearm at my place of employment?
A: Yes, provided your employer allows it. You can generally legally secure your firearm in your car while parked at your place of employment. Private and public employers are within their rights to have their own rules of conduct regarding firearms on their property, to include company vehicles. If you wish to carry or have the firearm with you, that is up to your employer and their rules.
Q: Can I carry at a hospital, doctor’s office, or other healthcare facility?
A: Yes, unless it is off limits for other reasons. A hospital such as Emory University Hospital, that is located on a college campus, would be off limits for carry per 16-11-127.1. State mental health facilities are explicitly off limits by 16-11-127. Generally, hospitals and healthcare facilities are private property, with the right to prohibit carry of firearms, and most of them do so explicitly. You could be asked to leave, if your firearm were to be detected. You should be cautious and discreet when carrying at these locations.
Q: Can I carry at sports and entertainment venues?
A: Yes, if the locations are not off limits. However, these locations, such as concert halls, theaters, sports stadiums, exhibit halls, amusement parks, and similar venues, are often quite explicit and proactive in prohibiting the carry of firearms. This often includes specific published rules that prohibit weapons and firearms from being carried on their property, and extensive security searches at the entrances to screen for any weapons. These venues could prevent your admission, or ask you to leave, if your firearm were to be detected. You should be cautious and discreet when carrying at these locations.