With the change in gun laws, followed by the Supreme Court's decision that cities and states can't infringe on the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms, there is confusion about just exactly what folks can and can't do with their firearms. Please allow me to clarify some issues.
First, the Supreme Court's decision last June did not affect Georgia's gun laws in any way. States may not be allowed to ban firearms, but they can regulate the carry of them. Georgia has some of the least restrictive gun laws in the U.S., but what few restrictions we do have were not undone by the high court's ruling.
In a previous article, I said that gun owners with a carry permit may take their firearm anywhere except in a government building, courthouse, place of worship, state mental health facility, premises of a nuclear power facility, within 150 feet of any polling place, any school building or on school grounds. Owners of private property may also restrict the carry of weapons on their property, such as bars, shopping centers, or the mall.
If a property owner or manager wishes to prohibit the carry of weapons on their property, they should post signs to that effect. An example would be the signs posted at every entrance of the Albany Mall. With these signs in place, management has put the public on notice that firearms are not permitted on mall property -- which is a perfectly legal thing to do.
You do not need a permit to carry a firearm in your vehicle. The firearm may be carried anywhere in your vehicle and does not need to be in a locked compartment unless you are carrying it onto the property of any of the places specifically listed above. The only exception is at a nuclear power facility -- you can't have a firearm on that property at all.
Please know that if you choose to carry a handgun, even if it is openly displayed, you should have a valid photo ID and your carry permit on your person and make them available to law enforcement upon request for inspection.
Also, there are two types of gun laws: those that cover possession and those that cover usage. Georgia is one of the growing number of states that does not have a "duty to retreat" prior to using force. Many states have laws mandating that a person retreat from danger rather than standing their ground -- some even requiring retreat inside of the victim's own home. Georgia law plainly states that there is no duty to retreat, and further states that a victim who uses force in self-defense is immune from prosecution and liability so long as they are otherwise in compliance with the law.
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to clarify some of these issues. My staff and I welcome your questions or comments. You may call my office at 430-6508 anytime.
Sheriff Kevin Sproul is a longtime resident of Dougherty County. Sproul has been employed with the Dougherty County Sheriff's Office for more than 27 years and can be reached at (229) 430-6508.