New Ga. guns laws go into effect this week

Published 7:47 pm Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Georgia House Bill 60, the “Safe Carry Protection Act,” and House Bill 826 officially went into effect yesterday. 

The Safe Carry Protection Act, known to some as the “guns everywhere” bill, allows licensed gun owners to carry firearms into bars, churches that do not prohibit firearms and open government buildings that do not have security checkpoints.

If a person is found with a firearm at a government building security checkpoint, under the new law, he or she cannot be charged with the offense of carrying in an unauthorized place as long as the person notifies security and follows directions on what to do with the weapon. This applies to all unauthorized places including courthouses, jails or prisons, mental health facilities or nuclear power facilities. A person also cannot be charged if he or she simply leaves the restricted area, according to the office of Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens.

“A charge of carrying a weapon in a government building cannot be sustained against a weapons carry license holder unless ‘at least one member of such security personnel’ is a POST (Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council) certified peace officer,” according to the attorney general’s office.

State agencies can implement policies that prohibit employees of that agency from having weapons on the premises, however the agencies cannot prevent weapons possession of licensed members of the general public.

HB 826 amends the previous “zero-tolerance policy” at schools, giving school officials the power to determine punishment for students who bring dangerous weapons or objects to campus versus the previous requirement to expel the student and report the incident to law enforcement.

According to the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.), a “dangerous weapon” is defined to include firearms, knives with blades of two or more inches, razor blades, bats or clubs, stun guns, throwing stars or nunchucks.

“There is a general prohibition against carrying weapons in a school safety zone (which includes the real property or buildings of public or private elementary schools, secondary schools, technical schools, vocational schools, colleges or universities),” according to the attorney general’s office.

Licensed carriers can, however, have a weapon in a vehicle when carrying or picking up a student and driving or parking on school safety zones.

The two provisions are in conflict concerning the allowance of weapons on campuses, but HB 60 was signed second and therefore is the presiding rule, prohibiting carrying weapons on campuses.