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June 22, 2014

Gun law alters law enforcement process

MILLEDGEVILLE — As of July 1, House Bill 60 or the “Safe Carry Protection Act” will pack several changes to state law concerning where an individual can carry and be punished for carrying a particular firearm.

Essentially, Georgians who have gone through a background check to legally obtain a Georgia Weapons Carry License can transport a weapon nearly everywhere with few restrictions.

The Baldwin County Sheriff's Office held a HB 60 educational seminar for county deputies, officials and staff at Central Georgia Technical College Thursday.

Capt. Brad King said the law would greatly affect everyone present.

King warned deputies that several people will likely test the new gun law. Officers have to adjust their way of thinking.

King said the law enforcement's right to protect themselves was removed by HB 60.

“I'm going to be honest with you. This is probably the worst piece of legislation I've ever read because it's vague, contradictory and some parts of it are down right absurd,” King said. “Get ready. Come July 1, this is how it's going to work.”

• Not on my property isn't always applicable

Private property owners can still ban weapons on the premises under the new law.

“They have the sole right to let you stay or let you go, and they don't have to give any reason behind it,” King said.

People have the right to post a 'no firearms allowed' sign on private property or businesses.

The sign must be properly displayed. There's still a “walk off” exception in these cases and most others under the new code section.

If the owner requests someone to leave with a firearm and they do so immediately, there is no punishment. The owner can force one person to leave and let another stay with their gun.

“If you stay against their wishes, you've violated the law,” King added.

Public buildings such as recreation facilities and local government offices without security screening must allow permitted individuals to carry.

The Baldwin County Courthouse meets this screening requirement locally. No one can walk into the courthouse with a pistol on his or her person.

If they make that mistake, the walk off exception applies.

Anyone who doesn't leave immediately will be guilty of criminal trespass.

The BCSO's currently believes signs forbidding guns should be posted at all government buildings.

The law restricts firearms in places of worship unless the church authority permits the carrying of weapons by a license holder only.

No sign is required.

Technically, a restaurant or bar owner could allow a permitted firearm unless they post a sign that says no.

• Guns at the schools

A licensed weapon can't come within 500 feet of a college campus.

King said the letter versus spirit of the law argument comes in play with Georgia College downtown.

For instance, someone could walk down Hancock Street unless he or she attempted entering the campus theater.

School safety zones are defined as any real property owned or leased to a high school for example.

A licensed carry holder can possesses a firearm in his or her vehicle on school property as long as it's locked securely in a vehicle.

“To me this is a moot point. Since the beginning of time, no one has taken their gun out of their car before going to a ball game,” King said.

County schools could also designate an employee to carry a gun as long as they authorize a particular firearm list and a time limit to possess it on school property.

It doesn't have to be a teacher.

Training is a requirement, but the BCSO doesn't know who will offer that.

The school employee must have a valid permit and lock the gun up appropriately. What makes a gun properly secured in a classroom isn't well established either.

• Law Enforcement detention worries

Police or sheriff's deputies can't detain a person solely to determine if they possess a valid carry license.

A “1st Tier” encounter or citizen contact remains legal for officers.

Anything more is deemed as a violation.

“You can contact them. You cannot hold that person or make them show you a permit,” King reminded deputies.

For those with a permit, a particular weapon must be carried the way it was designed.

Someone can't throw a pistol in a back pocket without a holster. People can carry a rifle over their shoulder though, as long as the gun stays in plain sight.

King said most people who go to the trouble to attain a carry license would abide by the rules and not test the waters.

Sheriff Bill Massee said the gun law is a detriment to investigators on the scene.

“You have to be careful with your interactions, or y'all are going to get sued,” he said.

Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Chief Assistant District Attorney Stephen Bradley said officers better have a legitimate reason to interact with an individual.

“If you walk up solely to check on that gun, you are going to have a real problem,” Bradley said.

 

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