Guns Laws and Open Carry
State laws governing firearms detail when you need a license to carry a weapon, where you can carry your firearms and what the penalties are for breaking the laws.
What You Should Know:
While you may legally store your firearm in your home, motor vehicle or place of business without holding a license, you must apply for a license with your county probate court if you intend to carry it outside of your own property. If you carry your gun for hunting or sporting, your current hunting license permits you carry your firearm outside of your own property.
You may be guilty of a misdemeanor if you:
- Don't have a current firearm or hunting license when you carry a gun outside your own property.
- Intentionally and without legal justification point or aim a gun or pistol at another, regardless of whether the gun or pistol is loaded.
- Fire a gun or pistol within 50 yards of a public highway or street without legal justification for doing so.
- Discharge a firearm on private property without the approval of the property owner.
- Discharge a firearm while you are intoxicated.
When hunting, you may be guilty of a misdemeanor if you use a weapon in a way that disregards and endangers the safety of another person. While these charges are pending, you'll forfeit your current license, and so you must then apply for a temporary hunting license.
You may be guilty of a felony if you:
- Give a firearm to a minor for illegal purposes. This offense entails a fine of up to $5,000 or a three- to five-year prison sentence.
- Solicit or persuade a dealer to give a firearm to anyone other than the actual buyer.
- Deliberately alter or counterfeit a weapons carry license or carry an altered or counterfeit weapons carry license. This offense carries with it a one- to five-year prison sentence.
The following are the most commonly asked questions and answers about what is permitted under the latest laws:
Q: When can a minor legally carry a firearm?
A: Minors may carry firearms when they are attending hunter education and firearms safety courses, practicing target shooting at a range, or participating in competitions or performances that use firearms. With the consent of their parents, minors may also apply for hunting licenses and may carry firearms while on their parents' property.
Q: When I park my vehicle in the employee lot and leave my firearm locked out of sight in the vehicle, can my employer search my car?
A: If you own your car and you hold a current weapons carry license, your employer cannot search the vehicle without reason. If your car belongs to your employer's fleet, however, you do not have full control over searches and must speak directly with your employer.
Q: Can a person with a weapons carry license enter a government building with a weapon if the government building is open to the public and has no security personnel manning a security checkpoint?
A: Generally, yes, except as discussed below.
Q Can a person with a weapons carry license enter an open government building with a weapon if the government building has security personnel manning a security checkpoint?
A: No. However, the person cannot be charged with the offense of carrying a weapon in an unauthorized place if the person approaches security personnel, notifies them of the presence of a weapon and explicitly follows their directions for removing, securing, storing, or temporarily surrendering such weapon. The person also cannot be charged with carrying a weapon in an unauthorized place if the person leaves the restricted area after being notified that he or she cannot enter with the weapon. Note: A charge of carrying a weapon in a government building cannot be sustained against a weapons carry license holder unless "at least one member of such security personnel" is a POST certified peace officer.
Q: Can a person with a weapons carry license enter, with a weapon, a courthouse, jail or prison, mental health facility, nuclear power facility, place of worship or go within 150 feet of a polling place?
A: No. However, a place of worship, by action by its governing body, may allow weapons. Also, a person with a weapons carry license cannot be charged with the offense of carrying a weapon in an unauthorized place if the person approaches security personnel, notifies them of the presence of a weapon and explicitly follows their directions for removing, securing, storing, or temporarily surrendering such weapon.
Q: Can a state agency have a policy that employees of the agency cannot have weapons on the premises of the agency?
A: Yes. However, the agency may not enact rules or regulations restricting weapons possession by the general public nor may an agency maintain a policy of searching employees' privately owned vehicles nor may an agency maintain a policy that restricts employees from possessing weapons locked in personal vehicles parked in parking lots accessible to the public.
Q: Can an agency prohibit a member of the public who has a weapons carry license from entering an open government building by simply posting signs warning that weapons are not permitted in the government building?
A: No. Weapons carry license holders can enter open government buildings where ingress is "not restricted or screened by security personnel."
Q: Must an agency have a certified law enforcement officer manning a security checkpoint at a government building?
A: No. However, a person with a weapons carry license can be charged with the offense of entering an unauthorized place with a weapon only if at least one member of the security personnel is a POST certified peace officer.
Q: Can a person with a weapons carry license carry a weapon on a college campus?
A: Both House Bill 60 and House Bill 826 addressed this question in amendments to 0.C.G.A. § 16-11-127.1 The provisions are in conflict. House Bill 60 was signed by the Governor after House Bill 826 and is the later enactment, so the provisions of House Bill 60 control. Therefore, there is a general prohibition against carrying weapons in a school safety zone (which includes the real property or buildings of public or private elementary schools, secondary schools, technical schools, vocational schools, colleges, or universities); however, a person who possesses a weapons carry license may have a weapon when carrying or picking up a student and may have a weapon in a vehicle that is in transit through or parked within a school safety zone.
Q: Can a person carry at a restaurant or bar?
A: SB308 does not prohibit carry for Georgia Weapons License holders in restaurants. HB60 decriminalized carrying in bars for Georgia Weapons License holders. However, individual restaurant and bar owners have the option of asking you to leave their establishment if they do not wish for you to carry there. Should a business owner or his agent ask you to leave while you are carrying a firearm, do so immediately, or as soon as reasonably possible. Failure to leave within a reasonable time, or refusing to leave, is a criminal offense known as "criminal trespass." In addition, please maintain a polite demeanor so as to project a good image of yourself to the business owner and any witnesses even when being asked to leave.
Q: What if a business posts a sign stating “No Firearms?”
A: While there is no law against carrying a firearm into a business that posts such a sign, You should always respect the private property owner’s wishes. Should a business owner or his agent ask you to leave while you are carrying a firearm, be polite and do so immediately, or as soon as reasonably possible. Failure to leave within a reasonable time, or refusing to leave, is a criminal offense known as "criminal trespass."
Q: Can a person carry at a State Park, Historic Area, or Wildlife Management Area?
A: Yes, including the publicly owned/operated buildings on those lands provided you possess a valid Georgia Weapons License.
Q: Can a person carry at a State Park, Historic Area, or Wildlife Management Area under control of the Army Corp of Engineers?
A: No. It is against federal law to carry in any area controlled by the COE.
Source: Official Code of Georgia, Georgia Attorney General's Office and GeorgiaCarry.org. This information was prepared as a public service of the State of Georgia to provide general information, not to advise on any specific legal problem. It is not, and cannot be construed to be, legal advice.