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June 11, 2014

Law enforcement preps for gun legislation

MILLEDGEVILLE — Local city and county law enforcement officials are responding to controversial gun legislation that will allow weapons in most public places.

House Bill 60 or the “Safe Carry Protection Act” contains changes to state law in regards to where an individual can carry and be punished for carrying a particular firearm. It goes into effect July 1.  

Included are provisions that allow residents who have concealed carry permits to take guns into some bars, churches, school zones, government buildings and certain parts of airports.

According to the verbiage of HB 60, a person with an active carry permit can enter a bar or a church, if the governing body or authority of the place of worship or business allows the carrying of weapons or long guns by license holders.

Individuals who do not want a gun in an establishment they own can still ban firearms on the premises.

The legislation also authorizes license holders to carry a weapon in a government building when the building is open for business and where ingress into such building is not restricted or screened by security personnel.

Also, the act says someone carrying a weapon can't be detained by law enforcement for the “sole purpose of investigating whether such person has a weapons carry license.”

Although both Milledgeville Police Chief Dray Swicord and Baldwin County Sheriff Bill Massee are concerned with the safety and security of city and county citizens in relation to HB 60, the two law enforcement officials view the severity and repercussions of provisions to the law in varying ways.

"I think it's going to be less of an impact than what people think it's going to be," said Swicord.

His statement was in reference to city residents. Overall, he feels the law will impact the state greatly.

He doesn't however feel that a large number of city residents will push the envelope to see just how far they can go with the new law.

"Are you going to see more people carrying guns into city hall when they're paying their water bill — more than likely you won't, but they have that right to do so," he said.

Massee's biggest concern is not with experienced gun owners but rather with people who are not very comfortable with guns.

"My real concern is not with people that are comfortable with using a firearm but with the number of people that are not experienced enough to carry one that have recently received a permit," he said.

Swicord feels no one will really know just how much the law will affect residents until it goes into effect.

"Obviously we hope people will use common sense in these matters, but we won't truly know how this will affect everyone until the waters are tested."

For liability purposes, Massee says the county intends to have signage posted at the courthouse informing residents of the law along with a quote of the provisions.

"It's strictly for informational and liability purposes," he said. "When July 1 rolls around we want people to know that the law is in effect."

He also has contacted the Baldwin County Board of Education, Georgia Military College, John Milledge Academy and E.B.L.A Academy advising them to consult their legal representatives to get more information about HB 60 and to have a policy in place for their campus and employees before July 1.

Swicord says that the city officials are in the process of preparing and implementing a policy for city employees, which includes verbiage from the bill in relation to an employee carrying a weapon in the course of performing their job duties, with the exception of police officers.

Both law enforcement agencies are prepared for any ramifications or incidents that may occur due to changes in the law. Swicord and city law enforcement officials have been through training that informs them on what to do in various situations. The training was done through an electronic program and lasted for approximately 30 minutes per person.

Massee and county law enforcement will hold two training and information sessions June 19 at the county 911 center. One will be held at 10 a.m. and the other is slated for 3 p.m. Assistant District Attorney Stephen Bradley will be in attendance to answer in questions on the legal aspects of the legislation. All county officials along with law enforcement from GMC have been invited.

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