Legalese — Constitutional Carry — Part One

constitutional carry

There’s been a lot on the news and social media about Georgia’s new gun laws.  Some praise it as a law enforcing the Constitution, some vilify it as putting more guns in the pipeline for criminals to have access to.  I want it clear that I am not expressing any opinion on the law here: I simply want to make sure that there is information out there about what the bill actually says without any editorial comment.  The bill is 25 pages long and is chock-full of legalese, so it is both tedious and difficult to understand.  My goal here is not advocacy in any direction.  I just want people to understand what it says so that their own opinions are informed.

First of all, it is important to note that calling it the “Georgia Constitutional Carry Act” is not a political statement.  Section one of the bill gives it that name, and says that it “shall be known” as such.  That’s its name.  You can love or hate the name, but that’s the name it was given.

Section two states the purpose of the law.  It says that the purpose of Government is to secure God-given rights.  Governments can punish people for breaking the law, but it can’t classify people as criminals who simply have the potential to deprive others of “life, liberty, or property.”  It says “Evil resides in the heart of the individual, not in material objects”—therefore, since things themselves are not evil or dangerous, government shouldn’t ban or restrict people from having them.[1]  In other words, it’s not a crime to have an object which is potentially dangerous, only to use it dangerously, so as long as you aren’t using it dangerously it shouldn’t be restricted.

Section three talks about parks and similar places.  In parks, you can’t have any “fireworks, explosives, or firecrackers, unless stores so as not to be readily accessible,” and/or if you have prior permission from the commissioner of DNR.  It then removes the prohibition of firearms other than a handgun in parks, and replaces it with language that says that you can use or carry any weapon if you are a “lawful weapons carrier.”  The next part is already in the code, and it says that you can’t have bows and arrows, air rifles, or slingshots and the like unless you have prior permission from the commissioner of DNR.

Section four defines some things.  A handgun is any firearm where the length of the barrel does not exceed 12 inches, and also not include a gun which has a single shot of .46 centimeters or less.  A ‘lawful weapons carrier’ is someone who isn’t prohibited from possessing a handgun or long gun, someone who is licensed, or someone who is licensed in another state.  A long gun has a barrel of 18-26 inches,[2] is intended to be fired ‘from the shoulder’ and uses a shotgun shell, ball shot, or any other single projectile per pull of the trigger.  Again, they except shot that is less than .46 centimeters.  Weapons include knives and handguns. 

Section five removes a lot of language that was in the previous code about unlicensed gun owners and where you can take your gun.

Section six gives some more definitions about what a courthouse and government building are, etc.  It then goes on to say that you can’t have a weapon or long gun in (1) a government building without being a lawful weapons carrier; (2) a courthouse; (3) a jail or prison; (4) a place of worship unless the governing body of the place of worship says it’s okay; (5) in a state mental health facility unless you fit under some exceptions to be described later; (6) at a nuclear power facility; or (7) within 150 feet of any polling place when elections are going on.  It also expands the rights to carry to “any lawful weapons carrier” which, as stated above in Section four, is not the same as a licensed weapons carrier.  It goes on to say that the prohibitions listed as 1-7 above don’t count if you are using a weapon or long gun for evidence in a legal proceeding, provided that you talk to security about it first; and if you are at a place described in 1-7 and you approach security or management first and tell them about your gun and you remove, secure, store, or temporarily surrender it as follows.  1-7 also don’t count if you have it under your own control in a car, or locked up in a car in a parking facility.  You can carry a weapon into a government building if it isn’t restricted by the security personnel there.  If they tell you that you can’t have it at a security screening, and you leave immediately with it, you aren’t guilty of anything.  If you violate these rules in a house of worship, it isn’t a misdemeanor, but rather a $100.00 civil fine. 

I’m 863 words into this article, and I’m only on page 11 of 25 of the bill.  I try to keep these columns under 750 words.  I want to finish talking about the bill, but I also don’t want to bore you or write a book about it. Because this is something for which there is a lot of misinformation out there, I’ll make this a two-parter, so stay tuned for the rest of it.  In the meantime, please don’t cherry pick a sentence or phrase I’ve written and turn it into the be all and end all of interpretations.  Also, please note (again) that I am not taking a position for or against this bill.  I’m simply stating that it does in fact exist and is the law in the state of Georgia, so we ought to understand the laws under which we operate.

[1] The same argument could be used for substances like marijuana, but that is not the topic here.

[2] I’m not clear on what happens if the barrel is between 12 and 18 inches.

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