Gun owner sues Georgia over pause in issuing carry licenses amid virus

ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM
ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

A Georgia gun owner has sued Gov. Brian Kemp and the Fulton County probate judge because the novel coronavirus has led many state courts to suspend the issuance of carry licenses.

Sara Carter, a Fulton County resident, and gun-rights organization Georgia Carry filed the lawsuit Thursday against Kemp and Fulton County Probate Judge Pinkie Toomer.

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Chris Carr said the office was reviewing the lawsuit and did not have a comment.

Carter’s attorney John Monroe said there are three factors working against each other resulting in his client’s constitutional rights being violated.

“You’ve got one state law saying you can’t carry a weapon without a license,” Monroe said. “And then we’ve got essentially a law created by the probate judges saying ‘we’re not going to issue licenses.’ And then you’ve got the Second Amendment saying you have the right to carry a weapon. So it’s hard to jibe all that.”

Monroe also sent a letter to Kemp last month urging him to use the powers granted to him during the state's health emergency to suspend enforcement of Georgia's carry law and allow gun owners to keep their weapons on them even if they don't have a license.

“I think the easiest solution would be not to enforce the crime of carrying the weapon without a license,” he said.

State law allows gun owners to have weapons in their homes, in their cars and at their places of business without a carry license. If someone wants to carry their weapon on them, he or she must have a license from the state after being fingerprinted and successfully undergoing a background check.

The Fulton County Probate Court website announced that fingerprinting and issuing carry licenses would be suspended.

Georgians have been stocking up on guns and ammunition while grappling with fears over the coronavirus, with gun dealers saying they've seen a huge spike in sales since the seriousness of the pandemic set in. Shop owners say plenty of regular customers have shown up to stockpile supplies, but the biggest surge has been from first-time "panic buyers" wary of what the near future may bring.

Monroe said he did not know of Carter was a first-time gun owner, but said she should be allowed to carry her weapon in case she gets into a confrontation while participating in practices allowed under Kemp's shelter-at-home order, such as grocery shopping or outdoor exercise.

“While you’re out and about and there’s a little bit of civil unrest, it might be a time you want to carry a weapon,” he said.

In Other News