A Paulding County man and a gun rights group have filed a lawsuit to force the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to allow firearms at Lake Allatoona campgrounds and on the boat ramp and at other lakes operated by the federal agency.
The suit filed Friday said the decision by the commander of the district that governs Allatoona and other lakes in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin was unconstitutional when he denied David James’ request to be allowed to bring a gun with him on his frequent camping and boating trips to Lake Allatoona northwest of Atlanta.
“He goes there nearly every weekend in the summer and camps there a few weeks a year,” said John Monroe, the attorney who filed the suit for James and the gun rights group GeorgiaCarry.org.
James said he usually camps at McKaskey Creek three or four weeks in the summer and his family takes their boat to Allatoona virtually every other weekend so his 9-year-old daughter can ski.
James asked for permission to bring a gun to the campgrounds and boat ramps “for the protection of himself and his family” but it was denied.
“It’s my Second Amendment right,” James said. “Especially while camping, there are lots of people out there and I want it for self protection. There could be snakes and animals and people are drinking at those campsites.”
James said the Corps did not give him a reason for denying his request.
“I anticipated that they would deny it,” he said. “I would have been surprised if they had (approved his request). They probably think they’re opening a can of worms if they do (allow guns).”
Monroe, the attorney, said firearms are prohibited on Corps property with some exceptions. One is while hunting on Corps land and another is with the permission of the district commander.
“James regularly keeps and carries a handgun in case of confrontation, except in locations where carrying handguns is prohibited by law,” the lawsuit said.
If James wins his suit, Monroe said it would apply to all 8,000 members of GeorgiaCarry.org and to all Corps lakes in the basin, including the popular Lake Lanier northeast of Atlanta.
A spokesman said the Corps had not seen the suit but also said the agency did not comment on pending lawsuits.
He confirmed, however, that the agency’s rules give the commander discretion to approve special requests to bring firearms on to Corps properties.
Jon Chytka, the commander of the Mobile District which governs the Georgia lakes fed by the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers, told James in an email on Monday that he had decided “not to exercise my discretion under (federal regulations) to grant you permission to possess a loaded firearm while visiting Lake Allatoona,” according to the suit.
The suit said that decision violated the Second Amendment protections of James and GeorgiaCarry.org members.
The suit, filed in the Northern District of Georgia, asks that the Corps be prohibited from banning firearms. Currently there is a $5,000 fine that can be levied against those who bring guns on to Corps property without approval.
Earlier this year, a federal judge in Idaho said the Corps could not enforce a ban at least until there is a full hearing on the suit brought by Elizabeth Morris and Alan Baker because they had “shown a very strong likelihood of success” in the argument that the Corps was violating her Second Amendment right. A hearing on the Idaho suit has been scheduled for late August.