A Concise Summary of Georgia Weapon Laws By M. Reed Martz [1]

By M. Reed Martz [[i]]

Nature and Source of the Right

The Georgia Constitution, [[ii]] like the Constitution of the United States, [[iii]] acknowledges every citizen’s right to keep and bear arms.  “Arms” is commonly accepted to mean firearms (which is the primary weapon discussed in this paper), but the actual definition would include most any implement capable of inflicting serious bodily injury. [[iv]] However, unlike the U.S. Constitution, Georgia’s Constitution reserves the right to pass laws regarding how arms may be borne. [[v]]

Registration, Background Checks, Licensing, Locks, and Buy-Backs

Georgia does not have a firearm registration requirement. Silencers, SBRs, and SBSs do not have to be registered with the state of Georgia, however individuals must still comply with federal law[[vi]]. The state legislature has gone so far as to prohibit laws made by counties or municipalities that would require for guns to be registered, [[vii]] and also prohibits government officials from enacting registration requirements during a state of emergency. [[viii]] It is a felony for a person to attempt to solicit, persuade, encourage, or entice any dealer to transfer or otherwise convey a firearm to an individual who is not the actual buyer. [[ix]] There is no permit, background check or firearms registration required when buying a handgun from a private individual. Subject to federal background checks from licensed firearm dealers, no records are required to be kept regarding any transactions by private individuals.  This is not to say that such information should not be kept, only that it is not required. [[x]]

Georgia has no requirement that owners employ gun locks or keep their firearms locked in a safe.

Georgia has no law prohibiting gun buy-back programs. However, any guns surrendered to police may not be destroyed, but shall be sold at auction. [[xi]]

Waiting Period

Georgia has no waiting periods on the purchase of firearms.  Firearms purchased from a licensed dealer must first be approved under the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System required by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993. [[xii]] Private sellers are not required to conduct background checks or investigate buyers. Federal law limits private sales to residents of the same state.

Age Requirements

In Georgia, it is a felony [[xiii]] for a person to intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly sell or furnish a pistol or revolver to an individual under the age of 18. [[xiv]] It is also generally illegal for an individual under the age of 18 to have a handgun in their possession. [[xv]] However, there are a number of exceptions. It is not a violation of § 16-11-132 if the minor is: (1) Attending a hunter education course or a firearms safety course;[[xvi]] (2) engaging in practice in the use of a firearm or target shooting at an established range;[[xvii]] (3) engaging in an organized competition;[[xviii]] (4) carrying the handgun openly with permission from the landowner while hunting or fishing with a valid license; [[xix]] (5) traveling to or from any activity described in these exceptions if the handgun is not loaded; [[xx]] (6) on real property which is under the control of an adult who gives the youth permission to have the handgun; [[xxi]] (7) at their residence using the handgun for lawful self-defense.[[xxii]]

In the Workplace; Guns In Trunks

There is no statutory limitation on a business owner’s right to prohibit possession of weapons within the business’ building or on their private property.[[xxiii]] An employer (public or private) may not establish any policy that allows the search of an employee’s locked, privately owned vehicle.[[xxiv]] Employers also may not prevent employees with a valid Georgia weapons carry license from bringing firearms in locked, privately-owned vehicles in the parking lot,[[xxv]] unless general public access to the lot is limited by a gate, security station or other means.[[xxvi]] An employer is generally immune from civil and criminal liability for damages which result from firearms permitted by this law. [[xxvii]]

Educational Property (School Safety Zone)

The carry of weapons on school property is generally prohibited by Georgia [[xxviii]] and Federal [[xxix]] law with a few exceptions. “Weapon” in Georgia’s statute is defined extremely broadly and includes guns, knives with blades longer than 2 inches, stun guns and tasers, bats and several more items. [[xxx]]

 Georgia defines a school safety zone as any real property or building owned by or leased to: (1.) any public or private elementary school, secondary school, or local board of education and used for elementary or secondary education; and (2.) any public or private technical school, vocational school, college, university, or other institution of postsecondary education. [[xxxi]]

The exceptions to this statute apply mainly to governmental officials and law enforcement officers, but also allows for holders of weapons carry licenses to possess weapons in the school safety zone. [[xxxii]] However, there are limits on the areas that a Georgia weapons carry license holder can carry in a school safety zone and the manner in which they do so. [[xxxiii]]

Georgia weapons carry license holders can possess their firearm on school property when they are picking up or transporting someone, [[xxxiv]] or if it is within their control or locked in their car.[[xxxv]] They can not carry their weapon into buildings used for sporting events, student housing buildings including fraternity and sorority houses, [[xxxvi]] preschool or childcare areas, [[xxxvii]] faculty and staff offices, [[xxxviii]] administrative rooms, and classrooms used for special purposes such as dual enrollment classes or college and career academy. [[xxxix]]

Georgia weapons carry license holders who carry their firearm in violation of the limits of the school safety zone shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. However, first time offenders upon conviction shall be punished by a fine of $25.00 and not be sentenced to serve any term of confinement. [[xl]]

Parks

Any person with a valid weapons carry license may carry a weapon in all parks, historic sites, or recreational areas, including all publicly owned buildings located in such parks, historic sites, and recreational areas, in wildlife management areas, and on public transportation; provided, however, that a person shall not carry a handgun into a place where it is prohibited by federal law. [[xli]]

Property Owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

Firearms and weapons are generally prohibited on property owned by the TVA, however, possession of firearms and other weapons associated with in-season hunting excursions are permissible if they are unloaded and properly cased. Possession of firearms at TVA public boat ramps (and associated roads and parking areas when used in conjunction with a boat ramp) is allowed if the possession complies with the law of the state where the boat ramp is located and is not otherwise prohibited by law. Otherwise firearms and weapons are prohibited. [[xlii]]

Airports

Individuals are not allowed to enter the restricted access area of a commercial service airport, in or beyond the airport’s security screening checkpoint, knowingly possessing or knowingly having under their control any long gun or weapon. This does not include the parking lots and other areas of the airport property not subject to security screening. [[xliii]]

Exhibition of a Weapon (Brandishing)

Under Georgia law, a person is guilty of a misdemeanor when he intentionally and without legal justification points or aims a gun or pistol at another, whether the gun or pistol is loaded or unloaded. [[xliv]]

Crimes Employed Using A Firearm; Felons

Any person who shall have on or within arm’s reach of his or her person a firearm[[xlv]] or a knife having a blade of three or more inches in length during the commission of, or the attempt to commit certain crimes shall be sentenced to an additional five (5) years on top of any sentence received for the underlying crime. [[xlvi]] A person who violates the statute for a second time will be sentenced to an additional ten (10) years. [[xlvii]] A convicted felon who commits one of the same crimes shall be sentenced to an additional (15) years in addition to the sentence for the underlying crime, and a felon who violates the statute for a second time shall be sentenced to life in prison. [[xlviii]]

Unless pardoned, expunged, or relieved from disability, a felon may not possess a firearm or other designated weapon. In order to have their right to possess weapons restored, felons must present proof to the Georgia Board of Public Safety that they have been relieved from the disability of possessing firearms under 18 U.S.C. § 925, and the Board of Public Safety must be satisfied that the individual no longer is a threat to the safety of the citizens of Georgia.

Silencers, SBRs, and SBSs

With the proper federal tax stamp, suppressors are legal in Georgia. It is illegal to possess a sawed-off shotgun (Short Barrel Shotgun/SBS), sawed-off rifle (Short Barrel Rifle/SBR), machine gun, dangerous weapon, or silencer (suppressor)[[xlix]] unless it has been properly registered pursuant to the National Firearms Act (26 U.S.C. Sections 5841-5862). [[l]]

The possession or use of a SBS, SBR, machine gun, or gun equipped with a silencer during the commission or attempted commission of many crimes is illegal [[li]] and shall result in an additional ten (10) years added on to an individual’s prison sentence. [[lii]] Second time offenders will receive life in prison. [[liii]]

Body Armor

An individual may own, possess, and wear body armor, but it is illegal for a person to wear a body armor or “bulletproof vest” during the commission or attempted commission of many crimes. [[liv]] However, it is a federal crime for individuals convicted of violent felonies to purchase, own or possess body armor. [[lv]] Georgia defines “bulletproof vest” as bullet-resistant soft body armor providing, as a minimum standard, the level of protection known as “threat level I,” which means at least seven layers of bullet-resistant material providing protection from at least three shots of 158-grain lead ammunition fired from a .38 caliber handgun at a velocity of 850 feet per second. [[lvi]] A violation of § 16-11-160 will result in an additional sentence of 1 to 5 years. [[lvii]]

Stun Guns/Electroshock Weapons

Georgia does not prohibit the ownership or carry of a stun gun or electroshock weapon. However, there are a few limits on how and where they can be carried. Stun guns are treated a lot like firearms and are in many cases statutory definitions include them. Stun guns generally cannot be carried on school property without a license. [[lviii]]However, weapons carry license holders may carry them on school grounds subject to the same restrictions on location as firearms. [[lix]]

Students age 18 and older may carry stun guns without a license on the school property of which they attend. [[lx]]

Pepper/OC Spray

Georgia has no statute prohibiting or requiring any licensure for the carrying of “pepper” or oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray, sometimes referred to as “Mace.”  Nor does Georgia limit the size of the container which may be employed. There are no limits as to where pepper/OC spray may be carried

Pocket Knives

Georgia does not restrict the ownership of knives. It is legal to own or possess any knife you want. Georgia does however restrict the carry of knives. It is illegal to carry openly or concealed knives with a blade length of 12 inches or greater without a weapons carry license. Under Georgia law, a knife is defined as a cutting instrument designed for the purpose of offense and defense consisting of a blade that is greater than 12 inches in length which is fastened to a handle. [[lxi]]

Under the school safety zone statute (§ 16-11-127.1), “weapon” is defined to include specifically dirks, bowie knives, switchblade knives, ballistic knives, and any other knife having a blade of two (2) or more inches. These knives may not be carried on school property without a weapons carry license. [[lxii]]

Except for restrictions relating to government buildings and courthouses, municipalities may not restrict the possession or ownership of knives more than the state of Georgia has already done. [[lxiii]]

Carry of a Deadly Weapon

Unlicensed Carry

Any person who is not prohibited by law from possessing a handgun or long gun may carry a weapon or long gun on their property or inside their home, motor vehicle, or place of business without a valid weapons carry license.[[lxiv]] Individuals may also carry handguns in a closed case, provided they are not loaded. [[lxv]] They may also transport loaded firearms in private motor vehicles. [[lxvi]]

Licensed Carry

Georgia is a “shall issue” state regarding weapons carry licenses. This means that as long as the person applying for the weapons carry license meets the minimum requirements, they will be issued a license. Individuals may apply to the probate court of the county in which they are a resident and, upon investigation, the court shall issue a weapons carry license. [[lxvii]] Licenses are $30 plus a $5 for fingerprinting services [[lxviii]]and are valid for a period of five (5) years. Both applications and renewals shall be applied for by completing forms supplied by the court. Licenses shall be issued to individuals aged 21 and older or individuals aged 18 and older with proof of service in the armed forces.[[lxix]] Weapons carry licenses will not be issued to felons[[lxx]] or individuals against whom felony charges are pending. [[lxxi]] License holders are required to have in their possession their Georgia Weapons Carry License whenever they are carrying a weapon. [[lxxii]] Individuals may not be detained for the sole purpose of investigating whether they have a weapons carry license. [[lxxiii]]

Georgia also honors the out of state permits of 32 other states. [[lxxiv]]

Open carry

Open carry of handguns is only allowed in Georgia with a weapons carry license. Individuals may carry long guns openly without a license. However, if they are loaded, they may only be carried openly. [[lxxv]]

The following chart lists and compares the places license holders are allowed and prohibited from carrying a concealed pistol or revolver:

Locations Allowed With Georgia Weapons Carry License Locations Prohibited EVEN With Georgia Weapons Carry License
Parks [[lxxvi]] Courthouses [[lxxvii]]
Historic Sites [[lxxviii]] Detention Centers, Jails, or Prisons [[lxxix]]
Recreational Areas [[lxxx]] In a place of worship, unless the governing body has allowed the carry of weapons [[lxxxi]]
Wildlife Management Areas [[lxxxii]] State Mental Health Facilities [[lxxxiii]]
Public Transportation [[lxxxiv]] Nuclear Power Facilities [[lxxxv]]
Government Buildings where access is not restricted or screened by security personnel [[lxxxvi]] Within 150 feet of any polling place when elections are being conducted [[lxxxvii]]
School Safety Zones Within: buildings or property used for athletic sporting events or student housing, including, but not limited to, fraternity and sorority houses [[lxxxviii]] any preschool or childcare space [[lxxxix]] any room or space being used for classes related to a college and career academy or other specialized school [[xc]] any room or space being used for classes in which high school students are enrolled through a dual enrollment program, including, but not limited to, classes related to the “Move on When Ready Act” [[xci]]  
Airports beyond the security checkpoint area {[xcii]]

Churches

The carry of weapons in a place of worship or a church, regardless of whether the individual holds a weapons carry license, is prohibited by law unless the governing body or authority of the place of worship expressly permits it. [[xciii]]

Justifiable Homicide

A person is justified in threatening or using force against another when they reasonably believe that such threat or force is necessary to defend themselves or a third person against another’s imminent use of unlawful force. [[xciv]] Additionally, they are justified in using force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if they reasonably believe that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury themselves or a third person, or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

Situations can include but are not limited to, conduct in reasonable fulfillment of duties as a government officer or employee, and conduct that is reasonable and is performed in the course of making a lawful arrest. [[xcv]] Also, a person who renders assistance to any law enforcement officer who is being hindered in the performance of his official duties or whose life is being endangered by the conduct of any other shall be immune to the same extent as the law enforcement officer from any criminal liability. [[xcvi]].

Stand Your Ground/ No Duty to Retreat

Georgia is a “stand your ground state.” This means that a person who uses threats of force or force in defense of them self or others, their home or their property [[xcvii]] has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and use force, including deadly force. [[xcviii]] Someone who justifiably uses threats or force shall be immune from criminal prosecution unless that person uses a weapon that is unlawful to carry or possess. [[xcix]] However, a person is not justified in using force if they provoke the need for the use of force; [[c]] or are attempting to commit, committing, or fleeing after the commission or attempted commission of a felony. [[ci]]

Preemption

Georgia’s General Assembly has declared that that the regulation of firearms is an issue of statewide concern. Thus, it has stated that no county or municipal corporation, by zoning, by ordinance or resolution, or by any other means, may regulate gun shows; [[cii]] the possession, ownership, transport, carrying, transfer, sale, purchase, licensing, or registration of firearms or other weapons or components of firearms or other weapons; [[ciii]] firearms dealers or dealers of other weapons;[[civ]] or dealers in components of firearms or other weapons. [[cv]] However, municipalities may require the ownership of firearms by the head of the households, regulate the transport, carry and possession of firearms by the members of the local government, and may prohibit the discharge of firearms within its boundaries. [[cvi]]

Additionally, Georgia’s legislature has retained the exclusive right to make knife laws within the state. Except restrictions regarding courthouses and government buildings, counties and municipalities are not allowed to restrict the possession, manufacture, sale, or transfer of knives more than the Georgia General Assembly has already done. [[cvii]]


[[i]] M. Reed Martz is an attorney and member of the firm Freeland Martz, PLLC.  Reed is an affiliated attorney with the Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network, LLC (http://www.armedcitizensnetwork.org/), the United States Concealed Carry Association (https://www.usconcealedcarry.com/), the Second Defense Alliance (http://myseconddefensealliance.com/), and the American Knife & Tool Institute (http://www.akti.org/).  Reed has received extensive education and training in the justifiable use of deadly force and weapons-related issues.  He is admitted to practice in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama.

[[ii]] Georgia Constitution Article 1, § 1, Paragraph VIII states “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, but the General Assembly shall have power to prescribe the manner in which arms may be borne.”

[[iii]] The Second Amendment to the United States Constitutions reads: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

[[iv]] Black’s Law Dictionary, 6th ed., defines “arms” as “Anything that a man wears for his defense, or takes in his hands as a weapon.”

[[v]] See endnote 1

[[vi]] § 16-11-124(4) 

[[vii]] § 16-11-173(b)(1)(B)

[[viii]] § 38-3-37(b)(4)

[[ix]] § 16-11-113(a)

[[x]] Georgia law prohibits the transfer of handguns to persons under the age of eighteen (§ 16-11-101.1(b)) and federal law prohibits transfer to some out-of-state residents (18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(5)).  I suggest that in sales the seller require the buyer to show proof of residence and age as well as sign a certification that the buyer is not prohibited from purchasing or owning the firearm.  The seller would also be well advised to retain a record of the date of the transaction, purchase price, firearm make, model and serial number, and the name of the buyer.  The seller has no duty to perform an independent investigation of the buyer’s representations.  In trades, both parties should “trade paper” of this sort.

[[xi]] § 17-5-54(g)(2)(B)

[[xii]] Public Law 103-159.  See https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics/general-information/fact-sheet for further information.  Those persons holding a valid Georgia concealed weapon license (CWL) do not have to complete the instant background check. See https://www.atf.gov/rules-and-regulations/permanent-brady-permit-chart.

[[xiii]] § 16-11-101.1(d)

[[xiv]] § 16-11-101.1(b)

[[xv]] § 16-11-132

[[xvi]] § 16-11-132(c)(1)(A)

[[xvii]] § 16-11-132(c)(1)(B)

[[xviii]] § 16-11-132(c)(1)(C)

[[xix]] § 16-11-132(c)(1)(D)

[[xx]] § 16-11-132(c)(1)(E)

[[xxi]] § 16-11-132(c)(2)

[[xxii]] § 16-11-132(c)(3)

[[xxiii]] § 16-11-135(k) states “Nothing in this Code section shall restrict the rights of private property owners or persons in legal control of property through a lease, a rental agreement, a contract, or any other agreement to control access to such property. When a private property owner or person in legal control of property through a lease, a rental agreement, a contract, or any other agreement is also an employer, his or her rights as a private property owner or person in legal control of property shall govern.”

[[xxiv]] § 16-11-135(a)

[[xxv]] § 16-11-135(b)

[[xxvi]] § 16-11-135(d)(1)

[[xxvii]] § 16-11-135(e)

[[xxviii]] § 16-11-127.1(b)(1)

[[xxix]] The Gun-Free School Zones Act (18 U.S.C. § 922(q)) generally prohibits carrying a firearm in a school zone.  However, sub-section (q)(2)(B)(ii) says the prohibition does not apply “if the individual possessing the firearm is licensed to do so by the State in which the school zone is located or a political subdivision of the State, and the law of the State or political subdivision requires that, before an individual obtains such a license, the law enforcement authorities of the State or political subdivision verify that the individual is qualified under law to receive the license.”

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) in a letter dated July 25, 2013, explained that “A license qualifies as an exception only if the law of the State or political subdivision requires law enforcement authorities to verify that the individual is qualified under law to receive the license.” http://goo.gl/QAjXYn  Thus, the exception does not apply to licenses issued by a state other than the state in which the school is situated or to unlicensed carry.

[[xxx]] § 16-11-127.1(a)(4)

[[xxxi]] § 16-11-127.1(a)(3)

[[xxxii]] § 16-11-127.1(c)(20)(A)

[[xxxiii]] § 16-11-127.1(c)(20)(A) i-vii

[[xxxiv]] § 16-11-127.1(c)(7)

[[xxxv]] § 16-11-127.1(c)(8)

[[xxxvi]] § 16-11-127.1(c)(20)(A)(i)

[[xxxvii]]  § 16-11-127.1(c)(20)(A)(ii)

[[xxxviii]] § 16-11-127.1(c)(20)(A)(v) 

[[xxxix]] § 16-11-127.1(c)(20)(A)(iii-iv)

[[xl]] § 16-11-127.1(c)(20)(B)

[[xli]] § 16-11-126(g)

[[xlii]]See,#20 https://www.tva.gov/file_source/TVA/Site%20Content/Environment/Recreation/On%20the%20Lands/day-use-rules.pdf

[[xliii]] § 16-11-130.2(a)

[[xliv]] § 16-11-102

[[xlv]] It should be noted that “Firearm” as defined by this statute includes stun guns and tasers.

[[xlvi]] § 16-11-106(b)

[[xlvii]] § 16-11-106(c)

[[xlviii]] § 16-11-133(c)

[[xlix]] § 16-11-122

[[l]] § 16-11-124(4)

[[li]] § 16-11-160(a)(1)

[[lii]] § 16-11-160(b)

[[liii]] § 16-11-160(c)

[[liv]] § 16-11-160(2)(B)

[[lv]] 18 U.S.C. § 931(a)

[[lvi]] § 16-11-160(2)(A)

[[lvii]] § 16-11-160(b)

[[lviii]] § 16-11-127.1(b)(1)

[[lix]] § 16-11-127.1(c)(20)(A) See, section on Educational Property infra (endnotes 34-39 and reiterated in the chart endnotes 87-90)

[[lx]] § 16-11-127.1(c)(19)

[[lxi]] § 16-11-125.1(2)

[[lxii]] § 16-11-127.1(a)(4)

[[lxiii]] § 16-11-136(b)

[[lxiv]] § 16-11-126(a)

[[lxv]] § 16-11-126(c)

[[lxvi]] § 16-11-126(d)

[[lxvii]] § 16-11-129(a)(1)

[[lxviii]] § 16-11-129(c)

[[lxix]] § 16-11-129(b)(2)(A)

[[lxx]] § 16-11-129(b)(2)(B) 

[[lxxi]] § 16-11-129(b)(2)(C)

[[lxxii]] § 16-11-137(a)

[[lxxiii]] § 16-11-127(b)

[[lxxiv]] See the chart at top of page for a list of States Georgia reciprocates http://handgunlaw.us/states/georgia.pdf

[[lxxv]] § 16-11-126(b)

[[lxxvi]] § 16-11-126(g)

[[lxxvii]] § 16-11-127(b)(2)

[[lxxviii]] § 16-11-126(g)

[[lxxix]] § 16-11-127(b)(3)

[[lxxx]] § 16-11-126(g)

[[lxxxi]] § 16-11-127(b)(4)

[[lxxxii]] § 16-11-126(g)

[[lxxxiii]] § 16-11-127(b)(5)

[[lxxxiv]] § 16-11-126(g)

[[lxxxv]] § 16-11-127(b)(6)

[[lxxxvi]] § 16-11-127(e)(1)

[[lxxxvii]] § 16-11-127(b)(7)

[[lxxxviii]] § 16-11-127.1(c)(20)(A)(i)

[[lxxxix]] § 16-11-127.1(c)(20)(A)(ii)

[[xc]] § 16-11-127.1(c)(20)(A)(iii)

[[xci]] § 16-11-127.1(c)(20)(A)(iv)

[[xcii]] § 16-11-130.2

[[xciii]] § 16-11-127(b)(4)

[[xciv]] § 16-3-21(a)

[[xcv]] § 16-3-20

[[xcvi]] § 16-3-22(a)

[[xcvii]] § 16-3-24.1Georgia uses the word habitation and defines it as any dwelling, motor vehicle, or place of business.

[[xcviii]] § 16-3-23.1

[[xcix]] § 16-3-24.2

[[c]] § 16-3-21(b)(1)

[[ci]] § 16-3-21(b)(2)

[[cii]] § 16-11-127

[[ciii]] § 16-11-127

[[civ]] § 16-11-127

[[cv]] § 16-11-127

[[cvi]] § 16-11-127

[[cvii]] § 16-11-136(b)