Rep. Mabra hosts forum at county library, where you can legally carry a weapon as of July 1
Starting July 1, gun owners with a carry permit will be allowed to legally bring their guns into bars, churches and “unsecured” public buildings such as local libraries and the like.
While the law allows bar owners and church leaders to decide they will not allow weapons to be carried on their premises, there is no such waiver possible for “unsecured” government buildings that are not staffed by an armed security guard. Under a new law, gun owners with a carry permit will have the blanket right to carry their weapon into libraries and other government buildings.
The changes were part of a sweeping gun rights bill passed by a [CORRECTED] 112-58 margin at the end of the legislative session. The law was the topic of a community forum hosted at the Fayette County Public Library Saturday by State Rep. Ronnie Mabra (D-Fayetteville).
[CORRECTED] Mabra noted that the new law allows bars and churches to eject patrons who are carrying guns even if such person has a permit to do so.
“It’s balancing gun and property rights,” Mabra said. “We have to have a balance.”
The Georgia Safe Carry Protection Act — commonly referred to as the “Guns Everywhere” law — also prohibits law enforcement from asking a person carrying a gun openly to show his or her gun carrying permit, Mabra explained.
Panelist Melinda Ennis of the Georgia Gun Sense Coalition mentioned an April incident in Forsyth County in which a man carried a gun openly to a youth baseball game and reportedly flaunted it, telling people nearby, “there’s nothing anyone can do about it” according to news reports.
While advocates for expanding gun carry laws argue “the only person to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” Ennis said, she argued that another distinction needs to be made.
“How do we know who the good guys are?” Ennis said. “Which of you in this room are good guys or bad guys? I don’t know anyone here. …. He may be a really good guy with an AR-15 on his back, but how do I know he is?”
Maj. Tommy Pope of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office noted that under the new law, if such a person is causing a disruption, a deputy can do a brief “stop” of such a person, questioning and detaining them briefly, to determine if that person has a gun carrying permit and what that person is doing there.
“And to just simply state to him that it’s obvious you’re upsetting people here in the community,” Pope said. “They have just as much right as you do here, you know, and in some way try to defuse the situation and have a peaceful resolution without violating that person’s rights and also taking care of the community and the safety of everybody else in the park.”
Pope said the sheriff’s office has updated its training on the new law so all deputies will understand what they can and can’t do in such situations. If anyone is concerned about a person carrying a gun openly, they should call law enforcement to handle the matter instead of dealing with it themselves, Pope added.
Jerry Henry of GeorgiaCarry.org, a gun rights group, noted that under the new law a gun owner with a carry permit may do so openly or concealed, even in a public library.
The Georgia Safe Carry Protection Act passed the House of Representatives [CORRECTED] by a vote of 112 “yes,” 58 “no” and three excused. Local legislators voting in favor of the gun bill were Republican state representatives Matt Ramsey, David Stover and John Yates. Democratic representatives Mabra and Virgil Fludd voted against passage of the measure. In the Senate, Fayette’s Republican Sen. Ronnie Chance voted yes, while Democrat Sen. Valencia Seay — who represents a portion of north Fayette — voted against the gun bill.
The new law establishes rules that would allow public school personnel such as teachers and administrators to be authorized to carry a gun on campus. The Fayette County Board of Education has the final say, however, on whether such a program would be administered.
Maj. Pope of the sheriff’s office said training would be a key component if such a program were to be adopted.
“If they are not trained properly I believe it would create more of a hazard by putting weapons inside the school,” Pope said.
Pope noted that there are police officers and deputies working as resource officers in all of the county’s middle and high schools which is already a big help in case of an emergency.
Henry noted that any educator allowed to have a gun on campus would be required to keep it concealed on their person or in a safe or other secured area. Such would prevent students from getting access to a weapon, he added.
Henry added that one new part of the law is already in question: a proposed $100 fine for gun-carrying individuals who do so in a church that has decided to ban such activity. That, Henry said, is a clear violation of church and state and thus is unlawful. Constitutional attorney Neil Kinkopf of the Georgia State University Law School agreed.
Mabra in opening remarks at the forum said he is a supporter of citizens’ second amendment rights and also “pro-common sense.”
The goal of the seminar was to help residents be better informed of their own rights, Mabra added.
“People can be informed about their rights and know what’s going on so we make sure our communities are safe, but also make sure we keep our rights intact,” Mabra said.
A carry permit — officially the “State of Georgia Weapons Carry License” — is available only through the office of the probate judge in each county. Any adult citizen of the state 21 or over may apply, but must be a legal resident of the county in which the application is filed. Each applicant must pay a fee ($79.25 in Fayette, cash only), fill out the background check paperwork and be fingerprinted at the Sheriff’s Department.
CORRECTIONS — The original online version of this story has been changed as noted above to correct errors about the final vote tally on the bill and the names of legislators who voted for and against the measure.