Both the United States and Georgia Constitution guarantee citizens the right to “keep and bear arms.” However, these rights are not absolute, and the overlay of federal and state law further complicate the ability to find clear, concise answers to handgun use and ownership. This article will help decipher some of the more common questions on Georgia handgun laws.
Common Georgia Handgun Law Questions
1.Who can purchase a handgun?
Georgia law is largely permissive about gun purchases, but federal law may be more restrictive. The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) website lists many specific federal prohibitions. Under Georgia law, residents can purchase rifles and shotguns out of state, so long as the purchase complies with federal, Georgia, and the laws of the purchase state. Minors are not allowed to purchase handguns. It is against Georgia law to attempt to have a gun seller transfer or convey a firearm to anyone other than the actual buyer. No convicted felon may purchase a firearm, regardless of whether the conviction occurred in Georgia.
2. What types of handguns can you purchase?
The federal government restricts the purchase of certain handguns under the National Firearms Act (NFA) and the National Gun Control Act (GCA). Additionally, federal law prohibits the purchase of certain types of handguns, such handguns that should be registered under the NFA, machine guns, and handguns that cannot be detected by airport security. Georgia restricts the purchase of machine guns, sawed off shotguns and rifles, silencers, and other “dangerous weapons”, including bazookas, mortars, hand grenades, and “recoilless rifles” unless the weapons have been properly registered under the NFA.
3. Do I need a license to carry my handgun?
It depends. You are not required to have a weapon carry license to keep your handgun on your person, on your own property, your home, personal vehicle, or place of business. Additionally, you do not need a weapon carry license to carry your handgun so long as the handgun is covered and unloaded, including the chamber. Furthermore, if you have a valid hunting or fishing license and are engaged in legal hunting, fishing, or sport shooting, you do not need to have a weapon carry license while they have the permission of the owner of the property and are engaged in the act of hunting, fishing, or sport shooting. With few exceptions, most other circumstances require you to have a valid weapons carry license to carry your handgun.
4. Do I need to register my handgun?
Unless the handgun falls under the National Firearms Act or the National Gun Control Act, there is no requirement to register your handgun in Georgia. Anytime you become the owner of a handgun subject to the NFA or GCA, whether it be purchase, inheritance, or other means, you must register the handgun with the ATF, but not the state of Georgia.
5. Where can I purchase a weapons carry license and what are the requirements?
Weapons carry licenses are issued by the Georgia probate courts. You can find your county probate court here. They also list several requirements to obtain a weapons carry license. No licenses are permitted for individuals under 21 years old, felons, or people with a history of mental hospitalizations or substance abuse in the past 5 years. Qualifying individuals will be subjected to both a state and federal criminal background check, including providing a fingerprint. Costs and processing time vary between probate courts, so call in advance.
6. If I have a weapons carry license, can I carry my handgun anywhere?
No. Federal and state law will still prohibit someone with a valid weapons carry permit from carrying their handgun in certain places. For example, you will not be allowed to carry your handgun into Hartsfield airport, church gatherings, bars where the owner has not given permission to carry, and of course schools. You may, however, be allowed to store you weapon in your vehicle in the parking lot of some of these locations. After much litigation, it is now generally permissible to carry a handgun in public places, such as national or state parks, so long as you have a valid weapons carry license for the handgun.
There are several excellent outside resources available for information on Georgia handgun law. Some websites, such as http://www.georgiacarry.org and http://www.georgiapacking.org, are specifically tailored to Georgia law. Other sites, such as http://www.handgunlaw.us, are more general. No matter where you get your information, make sure you authenticate any information you read to prevent inadvertent violation of state or federal law. Finally, be conscious of the effect having a handgun on you has on other people, and as georgiacarry.org points out, make sure to abide by the wishes of the property owners concerning your ability to stay on premises with a handgun.
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– Norris Legal, L.L.C.
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