Albany City Attorney: New gun law likely to add to local costs

The law that starts Tuesday loosens carry restrictions on licensed gunowners

Albany City Attorney Nathan Davis explained potential new costs associated with an amendment to the Georgia handgun law, HB 60. (Staff Photo: Jim West)

Albany City Attorney Nathan Davis explained potential new costs associated with an amendment to the Georgia handgun law, HB 60. (Staff Photo: Jim West)

ALBANY — Georgia’s new “safe carry” handgun law could soon be costly for Albany and Dougherty County residents, Nathan Davis, Albany city attorney, said Saturday.

Speaking at a monthly town hall meeting at the East Albany Community Center on East Oglethorpe Boulevard, Davis outlined some of the changes House Bill 60 will bring, including the right of “unrestricted” licensed handgun owners to enter most government buildings.

According to Davis, if the local government chooses to exclude weapons from government buildings, posting signs on the front door is not enough. Under the new amendment to the law, a local government is allowed to establish restrictions such as metal detectors, which must be manned by at least one person who is POST (Peace Officer Standards and Training) qualified, Davis says.

“Metal detectors require warm bodies, and warm bodies like to be paid,” Davis said, “To me, that appears to impose a heavy burden on local governments.”

Davis said he found it “interesting,” also, that if someone manages to enter a restricted building and is discovered later to have a handgun, as long as the person is properly licensed he must be given an opportunity to leave the building without threat of prosecution.

“That’s pretty strong,” Davis said. “I hope this generates some conversation.”

Davis said that to exclude licensed handgun holders from commercial airports, similar restrictive measures must be employed, together with prominently displayed signs. Even so, licensed handguns will be allowed inside airport shops, restaurants and anywhere on normal walkways, Davis said.

Historically, weapons have not been allowed in churches or similar religious institutions, and HB 60 doesn’t change that — unless church leadership makes it otherwise, Davis said.

“That’s more like an ‘opt-in’ situation for churches,” Davis said.

Albany Police Chief John Proctor dropped by later at the meeting to offer his opinion on HB 60, which will become effective Tuesday.

“This is a very bad bill,” Proctor said, in part because licensed gun owners will be allowed to bring their weapons into drinking establishments. “You don’t mix guns with liquor.”

Proctor said the Georgia Sheriffs Association, the Georgia Police Chiefs Association and other law enforcement organizations lobbied hard against the bill.

“The bill should be simple. Instead, it’s difficult and confusing and puts no emphasis on safety training,” Proctor said. “We need to repeal this bill if we can or make sure some changes are made.”

State Rep. Carol Fullerton, D-Albany, said Saturday that she voted against HB 60 in the General Assembly. She attributes its passage to a shorter than typical session and pressure on Republicans brought by members of the Tea Party and the National Rifle Association.

“Only a couple of Democrats voted for the bill,” Fullerton said. “The governor could have vetoed it when it reached his desk, but he didn’t.”

Fullerton suggested that those at the town hall meeting who were dissatisfied with HB 60 should contact their representatives, in particular members of the Georgia Judicial Committee, to “tell them how you feel.”