Gun laws in the United States have changed over the years, federally and in many states including Georgia. Of course, the most famous gun law in the country is the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It states that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” However, in 1934, the first piece of legislation to control gun sales was enacted, inspired by outcries over widely-publicized shootings. Further gun control laws passed Congress in 1968, 1993, and 1994, although some major court cases did work to successfully challenge restrictive bans.
Gun control laws are becoming stricter in many parts of the country, but Georgia actually has new laws protecting gun owners’ rights in more locations in the state. Georgia follows federal gun laws, but it does not require permits for long guns or background checks for individual gun sales.
There are many active firearms owners and advocates for gun rights in Georgia, and it is important that they understand how the changing laws affect them.
One of the laws that benefits Georgia gun owners is the Stand Your Ground law. This law aims to protect people who exercise their fundamental right to protect themselves in their own homes. The law is designed to stop people from being charged criminally if they kill an attacker while protecting themselves or another person.
The principle behind the law has long roots in Georgia law. In 1898, the state Supreme Court ruled that people have a right to use deadly force if their own life is in danger. Previously they were required to attempt to escape before deadly force could legally be used.
While the principles may date back over a century, the modern Stand Your Ground law was enacted in 2006, and its constitutionality has been reviewed at a federal level.
Since the law was passed, the number of related deaths has nearly doubled, from 7 annually to 13. The laws are sometimes criticized for promoting violent confrontation rather than de-escalation. More commonly, they are criticized not for their intent but for their application, particularly allegations of racial bias directed at police and prosecutors.
The law applies to anyone who believes his or her life to be in danger. People have the right to kill to defend themselves, and the shooting can be considered a justifiable homicide. However, police and prosecutors may not side with a self-defense claim, so people still may face aggravated assault or even murder charges. The Stand Your Ground law helps criminal defense lawyers for those facing charges to present a strong defense.
Additionally, the law can help crime victims protect their rights. One famous application of the law helped a man subject to an armed carjacking protect his rights after he shot and killed the man who was threatening his life. People can feel more secure about defending themselves and their loved ones when they know there is legislation that backs up their rights.
In 2014, Georgia revised its gun laws to expand protection for gun owners who carry their firearms in public. The Safe Carry Protection Act allows gun owner to bring their firearms to bars, churches, government buildings, airports, and even schools.
Many of the rules are subject to local legislation or a building’s owner, however. In addition, the law eliminated fingerprinting as a requirement for a firearms carry license and prevented the state from maintaining a database of licensed gun owners.
The law can help people to go about their business as gun owners who regularly engage in concealed carry. Rather than needing to lock away their gun where they won’t be able to reach it in an emergency, people will be able to defend themselves during an attack in a bar. In addition, people who go to the airport and forget to leave their gun behind can pick it up later; they won’t face criminal prosecution for a simple mistake.
The most recent update to Georgia’s gun laws is HB 280, passed in 2017. The law allows gun owners to carry on the campuses of public colleges and universities in the state. Bucking the trend toward increased gun control, Georgia’s legislature backed increased rights for the state’s 1-million licensed gun owners.
While licensed owners can carry concealed guns on any university property, they’re still forbidden from carrying in dormitories, sorority or fraternity houses, gated daycare facilities, private offices, and in classrooms with high school students.
Once again, the law prevents law-abiding, gun-owning college students from facing prosecution or disciplinary charges from coming to school with their firearm. In the worst-case scenario, gun owners can use their skill and training to protect others from an armed attacker on campus.
Gun laws are always in flux, and it can be important to consult with a lawyer to better understand your rights, especially if you’ve been involved in a self-defense incident. However, Georgia continues to be a state with strong and expanding protections for the people’s right to bear arms.
J. Blake Ledbetter is a partner at the law firm of Conoscienti & Ledbetter in Atlanta, Georgia. Mr. Ledbetter possesses significant experience with Uber accident lawsuits and a range of legal issues involving rideshare drivers and riders. Mr. Ledbetter specializes in civil trial practice, specifically in the areas of business law, corporate law, contract law and personal injury law.