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Legal gun workshop stresses safety

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY -- When thieves ignored her dog and alarm system to steal from her home a second time, Jane Mitchell-Hale said, "Enough." She packs a Taurus .38- caliber handgun.

She was one of more than 85 people who turned up at the 9 a.m. second annual Albany State University "Free Second Amendment Workshop" Saturday in the school's academic auditorium off Radium Springs Road.

The auditorium's crowd had as many women as men interested in their gun rights.

"I have a right to bear arms as a private citizen," Mitchell-Hale, of Albany, said. "I came here to learn how to have a gun the right way. To be a responsible gun owner. I learned a lot."

The workshop featured Probate Judge Nancy Stephenson, whose office issues gun licenses, District Attorney Gregory Edwards, of the Dougherty Judicial Circuit and law enforcement officials such as university police Chief Roberson Brown Jr.

"All of you are law abiding citizens. The law allows you to be armed," Brown said. "I think every one of you should be armed. But with that comes a responsibility."

That responsibility includes the use of deadly force when one's life or the life of another is threatened, Edwards said. The law does not allow the use of deadly force to protect property.

If someone breaks into a car, he can't be shot for the crime, Edwards said. Someone running away from the scene cannot be shot either, he added.

"There is a general rule on the use of deadly force," Edwards said. "It can be used to defend yourself and others against deadly force. You can not use deadly force when you are not threatened with deadly force."

That opened the floor to questions about how a resident can protect oneself when a burglar is breaking into the home.

There is a situation Edwards called "tumultuous" entering. It the intruder enters with enough of a tumult that it places the resident in fear for his life, the use of deadly force would probably be sanctioned, he said.

There would be a case by case evaluation of the shooting, Edwards said. There would be levels of judgment by the police, the prosecutor's office and perhaps a grand jury and eventually a court jury, he added.

Adding to his presentation Edwards covered topics such as when it is not permitted to carry a gun, even with a license. Typical non-permitted places are public gatherings such as a sporting event, government buildings and bars where the majority of business is on-premise drinking.

Under Georgia law no license is needed to keep a gun at home, in a business owned by the gun holder or in the gun owner's vehicle, Stephenson said.

Felons, people with a history of mental illness and others such as some people with a misdemeanor record are prohibited from obtaining a license, Stephenson said.

There is some common sense as to who should not carry a gun, Stephenson said. Anyone with a short temper in traffic shouldn't carry a gun, she added.

"There are also people who have no business carrying a gun," Stephenson said. "We try to screen for mental health and alcoholism in a background check."

There is only one license, it covers carrying a gun openly or concealed. Some states have two different permits. Georgia does not require any education in gun handling, safety or practice in obtaining a gun license.

The last part of the 3 1/2 hour workshop was spent on the basics of how a gun operates safety issues and responsibility.

Police Investigator Clayton Bryant of the Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit and police Cpl. Daniel Zok, of the Albany police Department showcased how to operate, safely handle and lock guns.

Officials placed and emphasis on safety throughout the workshop.

University police Capt. Constance Johnson gave thoughts on protecting children from guns and recommended the Web site kidsandguns.org for more information.

Offering more information, officials went over "do's and don'ts" about how to behave while having a gun in the vehicle when stopped by police. All in all it is better in the great majority of situations to call the police before reaching for a gun, Brown said.

"Once you pull that trigger," Brown said, "there is no calling that bullet back. You kill someone it will change you forever."

In order to better serve the community with information on guns, the law and how police operate, Brown said his department is planning shorter version of the12-week Albany Citizens Police Academy. It will be open to the public just as the workshop was.

"I thought this (workshop) was informative and good," said Louise Primrose, of Albany, afterwards. "I went to the Albany Citizen's Police Academy. It went in depth, but this workshop was good. I would

recommend people go to both."