On Tuesday, April 12, Governor Brian Kemp signed Senate Bill 319 into law, commonly called the Georgia Constitutional Carry Act making Georgia the 25th state to formally recognize the 2nd Amendment. SB319 went into effect immediately upon the Governor’s signature and is now the law in Georgia.
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
– Second Amendment to The Constitution of the United States #2A 🇺🇸
But what does that mean for Georgians?
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, and you should not rely on my blog for legal advice, but rather do your own research and consult a legal opinion if necessary. The following is informational only and should not be construed as legal advice. All information below is readily available on the Internet from various sources including the websites for US Concealed Carry, CCWSafe, Bearing Arms and others. ツ
Prior to SB319, Georgia was a “shall-issue” state, meaning that as long as an applicant passed the basic requirements of the state law, the issuing authority (in Georgia’s case the county of residence) was compelled to issue a permit. Local law enforcement officials could not deny an applicant a permit if the applicant met all of the criteria.
In Georgia, a Weapons Carry License (WCL) was required to carry a firearm whether “concealed carry” or “open carry”.
NO license was required to carry a handgun in a person’s home, vehicle, place of business, while fishing or hunting, or unloaded in a case.
In order to obtain a WCL the applicant had to satisfy these requirements:
• Be at least 21 years of age (or 18 if in the military and completed basic training with proof of active duty status or honorable discharge)
• Be a Georgia resident (only exception was for military personnel stationed permanently in Georgia)
• Be a US Citizen or legal resident
• Have no felony convictions or pending criminal proceedings
• Have no drug convictions
• Have no other disqualifying convictions (ex. domestic violence or carrying without a WCL)
• Have not been in mental hospital or drug or alcohol treatment center within the last 5 years
• Have not been committed to a mental hospital against your will
• Met federal law requirements
Applicants applied in the county of residence and paid a fee, typically $75 initially and $35 for renewal (5 years). Applicants were fingerprinted and had a background check completed to validate the above requirements. Processing time was typically 60 days.
With the passage of SB319 and the Governor’s signature, the requirement for a WCL has been dropped. However, all of the requirements formerly used for obtaining a WCL are still in affect to legally carry a firearm either “concealed carry” or “open carry”. This includes the age 21 requirement, residency requirements, felony convictions, etc.
All SB319 did was remove the necessity of paying a fee to obtain a license to exercise your constitutional right under the 2nd Amendment. All other requirements to open or conceal carry remain in effect.
In addition, the following items remain unchanged under SB319 as well:
* There is no duty to inform law enforcement you are carrying a concealed firearm (for example, during a traffic stop). However it may at times be prudent to do so.
* “No weapons allowed” signs are NOT enforced in Georgia. You see them in many places, but there is no criminal prosecution for ignoring a “no weapons allowed” sign. If you open carry (or if challenged on concealed carry) and are asked to leave an establishment and refuse, you can be charged for a misdemeanor for disturbance, etc. but there are no criminal charges for ignoring the “no weapons allowed” sign.
* There is no brandishing law in Georgia, that is showing or revealing you have a weapon. However, it is illegal to intentionally and without legal justification to point or aim a loaded or unloaded firearm at another individual.
* There are currently no red flag laws in Georgia.
* You can carry a firearm in bars/restaurants that serve alcohol, however you cannot carry a firearm while under the influence of alcohol (BAC of 0.08 or greater) or any drug or any combination of alcohol and any drug to the extent that it is unsafe for the person to discharge a firearm except in the defense of life, health, and property. In addition, any amount of marijuana or a controlled substance, as defined in GA Code § 16-13-21, present in the person’s blood or urine, or both, including the metabolites and derivatives of each or both without regard to whether or not any alcohol is present in the person’s breath or blood, is illegal. (Reference US Concealed Carry website).
* You can carry at churches if the church governing body allows.
* No license is required to purchase a handgun.
* There is no waiting period for purchasing a handgun.
* There is no registration of handguns in Georgia.
* There is a background check required to purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer (FFL). If you have a WCL it is proof of a background check and an additional check is not required.
* There is no background check required to purchase a firearm from an individual in a private sale.
* There are no magazine restrictions in Georgia including capacity.
* There are no ammo restrictions in Georgia regarding quantity or type.
* There are no training requirements to own or carry a firearm in Georgia.
* You can carry a firearm at rest areas along the highways.
* You can carry a firearm in state and national parks.
* There are certain restrictions for schools and school zones.
* There are certain restrictions for courthouses, jails and prison areas.
Why Obtain a WCL Now?
You will still be able to apply for a WCL under the current law just as you did before.
Why would you want or need to do so?
In order to legally carry a firearm in another state, that state must recognize reciprocity for the state of Georgia. In order to satisfy this reciprocity, you must have a WCL issued by the state. So if you travel, and intend to carry your firearm, you will still want to obtain and maintain a WCL for reciprocity. In addition, have a WCL makes purchasing a firearm at an FFL a smoother experience.
You can check each state’s laws and reciprocity on US Concealed Carry’s website.
Georgia is a Castle Doctrine state and has a “stand your ground” statute.
There is no duty to retreat in defense of a forcible felony, such as rape, armed robbery or kidnapping.
From usconcealedcarry.com website:
Defense of Habitation
A person is justified in threatening or using force when and to the extent that he or she reasonably believes that such threat or force is necessary to prevent or terminate such other’s unlawful entry into or attack upon a habitation; however, such person is justified in the use of deadly force only if:
* The entry is made or attempted in a violent and tumultuous manner for the purpose of assaulting or offering personal violence to any person in the dwelling;
* That force is used against another person who is not a member of the family or household and who unlawfully and forcibly enters or has entered the residence; or
* The person using such force reasonably believes that the entry is made or attempted for the purpose of committing a felony.
Defense of Property Other Than Habitation
A person is justified in threatening or using force when and to the extent that he reasonably believes that such threat or force is necessary to prevent or terminate trespass on or other tortious or criminal interference with real property other than a habitation or personal property:
* Lawfully in his possession or in the possession of a member of his immediate family
* Belonging to a person whose property he has a legal duty to protect
The use of deadly force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to prevent trespass on or other tortious or criminal interference with real property other than a habitation or personal property is only justified if it is necessary to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
While there is no requirement for training in order to own or carry a firearm in Georgia, I would strongly advise getting training from a reputable source before doing so. Most gun ranges offer training and many are NRA certified. In addition, you can sign up for training through John Lovell’s Warrior Poet Society website.
I would also strongly urge you select an appropriate firearm for carrying purposes and train with it. Visit a gun range and rent various options and try them out for yourself if possible before purchasing. I would recommend a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield Plus, a Glock 26 or a Sig Sauer P365 all in 9mm for concealed carry, but only with some serious range time and instruction.
With great power comes great responsibility.
Critics will argue that dropping the requirement for a WCL will increase crime and make it harder on law enforcement. While statistics can be used to show anything, historically states with Constitutional Carry tend to be safer than states with more restrictive gun laws. (see the states in the graphic above).
And always remember… criminals don’t follow the laws.
Gun control is not about guns, it is about control.