Gun law specifics: Cops can’t stop suspects for unlawful carrying

The content of HB 60, the omnibus gun bill passed by the Legislature last Thursday, is finally available online and in hard copy at the state Capitol.

Peruse the measure for yourself by clicking here.

Two areas are likely to spark some controversy. First, there’s a requirement that holders of concealed weapons permits must have that license on their persons when they carry. Which is immediately followed by the caveat that cops aren’t allowed to stop anyone solely to check for that permit:

(a) Every license holder shall have his or her valid weapons carry license in his or her immediate possession at all times when carrying a weapon, or if such person is exempt from having a weapons carry license pursuant to Code Section 16-11-130 or subsection (c) of Code Section 16-11-127.1, he or she shall have proof of his or her exemption in his or her immediate possession at all times when carrying a weapon, and his or her failure to do so shall be prima-facie evidence of a violation of the applicable provision of Code Sections

(b) A person carrying a weapon shall not be subject to detention for the sole purpose of investigating whether such person has a weapons carry license.

(c) A person convicted of a violation of this Code section shall be fined not more than  $10.00 if he or she produces in court his or her weapons carry license, provided that it was valid at the time of his or her arrest, or produces proof of his or her exemption.

Howard Sills, sheriff of Putnam County, noted the language as the bill passed last week:

"Then there is one sentence, and it destroys everything, " Sills said.

That one sentence says police may not detain anyone to demand to see a weapons permit. That means, Sills said, that if someone is walking down the street late at night with a pistol stuck in his waistband, police may not stop him and ask to see his weapons permit.

"I don't think the intent of the bill is to put law enforcement in danger, " Sills said. "It is one with devastating potential."

Jerry Henry, executive director of GeorgiaCarry.Org, sent us an index of case law that he says backs up the language in HB 60 – which you can ready by clicking here. But this is the gist:

Because there is no firearm exception to the Fourth Amendment, in order to justify detaining a person for carrying a firearm (to see if the person has a license), an officer would have to be able to articulate what facts and circumstances led the officer to believe the person had committed, was committing, or was about to commit a crime.

In Sheriff Sills’ example, stopping someone he describes as a “thug,” with no additional information as to what makes the person a thug, just because the person possessed a firearm, would violate the person’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

More than likely, you’ll see increased stops by law enforcement for the official purpose of investigating such things as jaywalking and littering.

There’s also this passage, beefed up to put all regulation of gun stores and gun shows -- and now knife shows and shops, too -- solely in the hands of state lawmakers. Zoning included:

Except as provided in subsection (c) of this Code section, no county or municipal corporation, by zoning or by ordinance, or resolution, or other enactment, nor any agency, board, department, commission, or authority of this state, other than the General Assembly, by rule or regulation shall regulate in any manner:

(A) Gun shows;

(B) The possession, ownership, transport, carrying, transfer, sale, purchase, licensing, or registration of firearms or other weapons or components of firearms or other weapons;

(C) Firearms dealers or dealers of other weapons firearms dealers; or

(D) Dealers in dealers in firearms components of firearms or other weapons.

Questions can be directed to the House and Senate planning and zoning committees.

About the Author

Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.