Why Virginians can’t carry their guns in Georgia

Bob Sadtler, with the Virginia Citizens Defense League, holds his gun holster as he speaks against the proposed banning of concealed firearms in Executive Branch offices in Virginia during a public hearing in the Pocahontas Building Wednesday, August 31, 2016. (Alexa Welch Edlund / Richmond Times-Dispatch)

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Bob Sadtler, with the Virginia Citizens Defense League, holds his gun holster as he speaks against the proposed banning of concealed firearms in Executive Branch offices in Virginia during a public hearing in the Pocahontas Building Wednesday, August 31, 2016. (Alexa Welch Edlund / Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Robert Sadtler lives in Virginia but wants to visit his Georgia relatives — if he can bring his gun.

Georgia, however, says Sadtler has to leave his firearms behind.

So Sadtler has sued to force Georgia to recognize gun carry permits issued to visiting Virginians — like him — just as Virginia recognizes permits issued to Georgians who travel to the commonwealth.

“I’m just looking to be treated as residents in other states are treated,” said Sadtler, 48, a gun-rights activist who lives in Richmond.

At issue is a common arrangement among states known as “reciprocity” — we’ll recognize your carry permits if you’ll recognize ours — and Sadtler’s suit is testing Georgia’s all-or-nothing stance. Virginia’s law says no one under 21 may obtain a carry permit. Georgia has the same rule with one exception: honorably discharged military veterans who haven’t turned 21 yet. It’s a very small group of people, but it’s enough to throw a wrench into the states’ reciprocity agreement.

"Until recently, Virginia didn't recognize Georgia licenses at all. … And now they recognize Georgia but not people under 21," said John Monroe, the attorney for the gun-rights group GeorgiaCarry.org who brought the suit on Sadtler's behalf.

Sadtler said he has relatives in metro Atlanta and wants to bring his gun when he visits, but he fears he will be arrested and prosecuted if he comes armed. So he doesn’t plan a trip any time soon.

“The world is just a very random place,” Sadtler said. “If criminals were to announce their intentions on Facebook or Snapchat or Instagram there would be no reason for any citizen to protect themselves. Decent people who take their protection seriously have to anticipate and prepare.”

He resents that restrictions that apply to such a small group of people in Georgia are having an impact on him.

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John Monroe is the attorney for GeorgiaCarry.org.

John Monroe is the attorney for GeorgiaCarry.org.

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John Monroe is the attorney for GeorgiaCarry.org.

Monroe said a survey of probate judges, who issue gun permits in Georgia, showed about 100 Georgians younger than 21 have been issued permits to carry handguns because of their military service. It's a small number among the hundreds of thousands of Georgians GeorgiaCarry.org estimated to have permits to carry guns here, Monroe said.

Kathryn Grant, director of the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus, said the suit was just another "attempt by GeorgiaCarry to fulfill their organizational mission" to eliminate all restrictions on guns.

“That’s not the mission,” Monroe said. “There are some places where we believe guns should not be allowed. Not many. But there are some places.”

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GeorgiaCarry.org filed a lawsuit to force Georgia to recognize gun permits issued by Virginia.

GeorgiaCarry.org filed a lawsuit to force Georgia to recognize gun permits issued by Virginia.

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GeorgiaCarry.org filed a lawsuit to force Georgia to recognize gun permits issued by Virginia.

GeorgiaCarry.org notes at the top of its website its belief that "the Second Amendment to the Bill of Rights doesn't just apply in certain locations or to special people favored by the government. The right of the people to keep and bear arms applies everywhere and to all of us without qualification. 'Shall not be infringed' means SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED."

For now, “reciprocity” is a state-by-state issue even though there have been several attempts to pass a national reciprocity law for several years.

Pending U.S. House and Senate bills — which have Georgia co-sponsors — will die at the end of this term of Congress. But at least one Republican congressman, U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson of North Carolina, has already said he will propose next month in the new Congress a bill similar to one he introduced in 2015 to require that every state honor weapons carry permits issued in any other state, regardless of differing standards.

“Our Second Amendment right doesn’t disappear when we cross state lines,” Hudson said in a statement announcing his plans.

“We think this is the most dangerous idea they’ve ever had,” said Jonas Oransky, senior counsel for Everytown for Gun Safety. “It’s a terrible policy and should make people very scared.”

He said such a mandate would force states with strict gun laws to honor permits issued under less restrictive statutes. "It extends the law to people residing in states where there is no permit to carry," Oransky said, singling out Missouri, which no longer requires a permit to carry a firearm.

All the same, said Georgia State University law professor Lynn Hogue, there may be “serious constitutional difficulties” with any law that Congress passes demanding that every state accept permits from other jurisdictions.

“It may be a power that Congress does not have,” Hogue said..

Ten states and the District of Columbia don't recognize gun carry permits issued by other states, according to Everytown for Gun Safety.

Georgia, with some of the nation's least restrictive gun laws, honors carry permits from 31 states.

Virginia is not one of them.

This year Virginia adopted a new law to honor every state’s gun permits except those issued to people younger than 21. In June Sgt. Thomas Lambert with the Virginia Department of State Police wrote in an email to Georgia Assistant Attorney General Rebecca Dobras that starting July 1, Virginia would honor Georgia gun carry permits issued to anyone at least 21 years old.

"But Georgia declined to reciprocate," the suit said, "unless Virginia recognizes all" Georgia weapons permits.

Asked for comment, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Chris Carr referred to the Georgia Code and said the office would have no other response. The law says, “any person licensed to carry a handgun or weapon in any other state whose laws recognize and give effect to a license issued pursuant to this part shall be authorized to carry a weapon in this state.”

Sadtler said in his suit that refusal to recognize Virginia permits goes against Georgia law.

“I felt cheated. I did,” Sadtler said. “I’m just looking to be treated as residents in other states are treated.


Ten states and the District of Columbia do not recognize carry permits issued by other states. They are:

  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Massachusetts
  • Rhode Island
  • Connecticut
  • Maryland
  • Illinois
  • California
  • Oregon
  • Hawaii

Most of the remaining states have reciprocal agreements with other states. Georgia, for example, has 31 such agreements whereby it recognizes permits issued by each state, and each state in return recognizes Georgia-issued licenses.

Congress has so far rejected a sweeping federal law that would require all the states to recognize carry permits of all the other states. But a Republican member of the House from North Carolina says he’ll be offering a “nationwide reciprocity” bill as early as next month.

Sources: National Rifle Association, Georgia attorney general’s office,