Mixed Victory in Georgia

Perdue signed SB 308, but vetoed SB 291. We had a bit of a disagreement with the Georgia folks on this one a while back, where I may have gotten one aspect of how the two laws would be treated wrong. As I mentioned in the latter post, I suspect NRA’s Lobbyist did not want to give Perdue a way to avoid dealing with the airport issue directly. His veto statement is thus:

SB 291 changes a variety of provisions within Georgia law regarding firearms. Among others, this bill would allow firearms to be carried into unsecure areas of airports. I have already signed SB 308, which clarifies Georgia’s public gathering statute and preserves the rights of private property owners. I believe this language is sufficient and adequately clarifies the law for Georgia firearms license holders. For this reason, and despite unwarranted intrusion into this state matter by ill-advised federal officials, I VETO SB 291.

I think the case for banning guns in Atlanta Airport is weakened by SB308, but I’m going to bet that the airport authorities will continue their defiance, using the still existing prohibition on guns in “government buildings,” which are defined as any place housing a “government entity,” meaning “an office, agency, authority, department, commission, board, body, division, instrumentality, or institution of the state or any county, municipal corporation, consolidated government, or local board of education within this state.”  I’d be hard pressed to believe there aren’t City of Atlanta agencies who are based at the airport.

Maybe Perdue thinks he already addressed the airport issue, but then why veto SB291 on that grounds? I think he’s trying to have his cake and eat it too. I’ll be very surprised if the end result of all this is the airport carry issue being fixed in Georgia. Aside from the fact the airport still has a plausible claim on state law, one of the things that Atlanta did last time they were sued is bring federal preemption issues into the mix, citing the Airport Security Directive from the TSA, which applies to all airport areas, sterile and non sterile. They claimed because this empowered airport officials with security for the whole airport, the airport officials could decide to ban guns if they felt that was necessary for security. Because this is a federal empowerment of local officials, the Supremacy Clause applies, and the airport’s operators’ judgement have precedent over state law. This would have been novel legal theory if the District Court hadn’t bought it, and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld it. If that’s upheld by the Supreme Court, local officials would be permitted to ban guns at any airport. Without crystal clear language in state law, this is a dangerous game we’re playing with this issue, with national implications. I do hope going forward we win on this issue, but I would suggest waiting for a fix in state law would be wise before further litigation proceeds.

12 thoughts on “Mixed Victory in Georgia”

  1. Actually it is “eat your cake and have it too” which makes more sense if you think about it.

  2. Which actually makes a nice pun in NC, as “gouverneuse perdue” is French for “lost governor.” Who is not to be confused with the governor of the other Carolina, who actually went missing last year. [The pun doesn’t work for GA Gov. Sonny Perdue, as the final -e is feminine.]

  3. 308 is a huge victory. The Public Gathering statute was a Jim Crow law meant to prevent Blacks from carrying guns. The language was very broad and non-specific eg “shall include, but shall not be limited to”. The law extended well beyond the actual event with the language “he or she carries to or while a public gathering”. The case law was designed to entrap and prevent carrying everywhere in the state .

    If Law Enforcement had known/remembered how strong the Public Gathering clause was, there would be no gun rights in Georgia. There is no way, anyone could legally comply with the court interpretations of the law while carrying in public. GeorgiaCarry had to walk a fine line in explaining how bad the existing law was but not highlight it enough that anti-gun politiicans figure out the powerful tool they had at their disposal.

    GeorgiaCarry worked this issue for 2 years from the first study committee hearing to the last day of the Legislative session. It was our priority for the session and we did it, thanks to the leadership of Senator Mitch Seabaugh.

    308 dramatically expands the number of places Licensees can carry legally. It repealed 140 friggin’ years of gun control and it happened because of GeorgiaCarry.

  4. Unfortunately, with the language passed in SB308, carrying in the terminal building of the Atlanta airport is still very clearly against the law.

    The City of Atlanta’s Department of Aviation is based in the building, making it a “government building” under the new definition.

    As there was once no exception to the “public gathering” law for firearms in checked baggage, now there is NO exception in the “government building” provision for the same.

    As it sits, it is very much illegal to bring a firearm into the terminal building.

    SB308 is a HUGE step forward for GA gun laws.

    But, there is still lots of work to be done.

  5. My quick notes on SB308:

    Handgun = ANY gun with barrel under 12″
    Long gun = shoulder gun with barrel over 18″
    Issue: legal coverage gap for guns with 12-18″ barrels
    Knife = blade over 5″
    Weapon = knife or handgun (NOT a long gun)
    Issue: 11.5″ AR15 is a handgun
    Issue: may openly carry a >18″ rifle, but not a <18" (16" is federal minimum)
    Issue: may carry a weapon in all parks, historic sites, or recreational areas, … including all publicly owned buildings located [therein]…, in wildlife management areas, and on public transportation
    Issue: unlawful for any person to use or possess in any park, historic site, or recreational area any firearms, other than a handgun 
    Bar = serves alcohol, food incidental
    Parking facility = real property owned or leased by a government entity, courthouse, jail, prison, place of worship, or bar that has been designated by such … for the parking of motor vehicles …
    Issue: illegal to carry in government entity, courthouse, jail, prison, place of worship, or bar
    Issue: carry in bar legal if owner allows
    Issue: owner may prohibit possession
    Issue: legal in parking facility if under owners direct control, or is securely locked (unloaded not required)
    Issue: 1000-foot school buffer repealed
    Issue: possession of dangerous weapon or machine-gun garners extra (5-year) punishment
    License cost = $30
    license is for weapon (knife or gun with barrel under 12")
    Loaded = round in chamber in handgun
    Issue: unlawful for any person to use or possess in any park, historic site, or recreational area any bows and arrows, spring guns, air rifles, slingshots, or any other device which discharges projectiles by any means, unless the device is unloaded and stored
    Issue: effective NOW!    

  6. I don’t think anyone should be happy with partial victories. As far as I’m concerned, as long as the government licenses gun owners in Georgia, the laws are bad. And, there are a lot of gun owners in Georgia who think the same way. Our ancestors would be rolling over in their graves if they knew we had to go to a government to get permission to protect ourselves and our families…and even worse, they’d probably be really disappointed in groups (like Georgia Carry or the NRA) who are “OK” with government licensing. I don’t trust government having the names of concealed carry owners in this state. If you aren’t uncomfortable with that you haven’t payed much attention to history throughout the world.

  7. It should be noted that Perdue will be unemployed at the end of this year. The airport issue will not go away in Georgia, just postponed for a year.

    But, IMHO, the reason SB291 was vetoed was because it contained language preventing the Governor from confiscating legal weapons during a declared emergency (Katrina law). Perdue said previously he would veto any attempt to dilute his emergency powers.

    SB308 was pushed by local grassroots GeorgiaCarry. It passed. SB291 was pushed by the national NRA. It was vetoed.

    We in Georgia wanted the death of the Public Gathering. That was most important to us, and we got it because we Georgians fought for it.

  8. One should be happy with partial victories insofar as they get us one step closer to the goal of AK carry. Those happy with SB308 are in no way content unto ending the fight. Eliminating the “public gathering” clause was a HUGE step (if you don’t live in GA you don’t understand) for which we should be happy. There is little we can’t do that we should now; the fight will however continue until “shall not be infringed” is respected without qualification.

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