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May 2, 2014

Downtown establishments respond to gun legislation

MILLEDGEVILLE — Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed a dubious House Bill related to the permitted carrying and possession of firearms last Wednesday.

House Bill 60 or the “Safe Carry Protection Act” packs in several changes to state law concerning where an individual can carry and be punished for carrying a particular firearm. It becomes effective July 1.

“This legislation will protect the constitutional rights of Georgians who have gone through a background check to legally obtain a Georgia Weapons Carry License. Roughly 500,000 Georgia citizens have a permit of this kind, which is approximately 5 percent of our population. License holders have passed background checks and are in good standing with the law,” said Deal on bill signing day. “This law gives added protections to those who have played by the rules — and who can protect themselves and others from those who don’t play by the rules.”

Amendments relating to carrying weapons in pubic places highlight what some portray as a “controversial” bill.

According to HB 60’s language, 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.

Those who don’t want a gun in an establishment they own can still ban firearms on the premise.

Owner of Dodo’s Pool Room Ed Hollis said firearms wouldn’t be allowed in its quarters.

He does believe in the right to carry with a license, just not with alcohol nearby.

“We’ve had someone come in with [a gun] strapped to their side, and I asked them to go leave it in their car,” Hollis said. “We had a complaint. People felt skittish about him having a pistol.”

Buffington’s co-owner Dave Hufstetler doesn’t expect the law to change the establishment’s world too much.

“I’ve yet to have a customer walk in armed,” he said. “I don’t see it as something we are really going to worry about. We’ll just handle our business daily as it comes up.”

Hufstetler is happy to see the state government letting the private sector make decisions on the issue.

Amici Italian Café co-owner Bob Ewing said even as a licensed gun carrier he'd never take his firearm into a restaurant or bar.

“We aren't going to allow it. Common sense doesn't seem like guns and alcohol are a good combination to me,” Ewing said. “Obviously, we won't please everybody, but at the same time, we want to make sure everybody is safe.”

Amici will post a sign prohibiting firearms on the premise before the law goes into effect.

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.”

Theoretically if a person is walking down the street with a gun on his or her hip or has the gun in plain view at a traffic checkpoint, a law enforcement officer can’t ask to see a permit for that firearm.

State Rep. Rusty Kidd (I-Milledgeville) said previously that’s the only potentially bad part about the bill.

An official of a public elementary or secondary school or a public or private technical school, vocational school, college, university or other institution of post-secondary education or a local board of education may allow a teacher or other selected personnel to carry a specific weapon for a detailed amount of time under the state gun legislation.

At a minimum, volunteer personnel would undergo training on judgment, marksmanship and self-defense law. The weapon must be concealed either on the person or in a locked box, etc.

HB 60 does protect someone with a weapon carry permit entering restricted commercial airport security screening checkpoints. Those in possession of a weapon who immediately leave the restricted access area following proper notification and completion of federally required transportation security screening procedures aren’t considered violators.

HB 60 grants persons with mental health or criminal records the right to petition for relief of certain licensing exceptions.

“The court shall grant the petition for relief if such court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the person will not likely act in a manner dangerous to public safety in carrying a weapon and that granting the relief will not be contrary to the public interest,” page 14 of the bill reads.

 

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