Georgia Firearms License Reform HB 89 Bill Posted as Passed

The final text to HB 89, as passed has been posted at last. Apparently some important measures were removed from the previous version described below. Here’s what the final bill does include:

  • The ability for CCW license holder to legally carry:
    • On MARTA and other mass transit
    • In all parks, historic sites, and recreation areas, including the buildings
    • In wildlife management areas
    • Restaurants whose sales are at least 50% food. Some have asked how you can determine if the restaurant you’re visiting qualifies: According to O.C.G.A. ยง 3-3-7, the restaurant cannot serve alcohol on Sunday unless they sell at least 50% food, so if they do you’re safe. There may be other reasons why the don’t though, so in that case you’d have to ask specifically or find out some other way.
  • Removed restrictions on where in your car you can carry even if you don’t actually have your license–so long as you are actually eligible for one. This is important in case, for example, a husband who does have a permit leaves a weapon hidden between the seats, and his wife, who is eligible but hasn’t applied for one, takes the car to the store and gets stopped.
  • Replaced the old 60 day maximum time the court could take to issue a permit, which was overturned by the Georgia Supreme Court, with a two day limit to send off the background check, a 30 day limit for the background check itself, and a 10 day limit from the time the background check is completed. Also, if the takes longer than specified, the applicant can sue to get their license and is entitled to recover costs, including reasonable attorney’s fees.
  • Made “straw purchases” illegal under state law. It is already illegal under federal law, however this provision will allow state officials to prosecute these people. It also includes “any other person who aids or abets such persons” in the felony category. So, if New York Mayor Bloomberg sends private investigators down to Georgia to try and purchase guns illegally again, he can be personally prosecuted.
  • Prevents employers from searching employees’ vehicles except:
    1. by law enforcement (with a warrant or valid warrantless search based on probable cause under exigent circumstances),
    2. if the vehicle is owned/leased by the company,
    3. reasonably necessary to prevent an immediate threat, or
    4. based on probable cause that the employee is stealing property
  • Prevents employers from barring employees as a condition of employment from keeping guns out of sight in their locked vehicles, provided that employee is a Georgia Firearms License holder, and except in these cases:
    1. In a secure parking lot, such as behind a gate or security station, “provided that any employer policy allowing vehicle searches upon entry shall be applicable to all vehicles entering the property and applied on a uniform and frequent basis
    2. Prisons, jails, etc.
    3. Public utilities
    4. Defense contractors on or attached to a military base
    5. Employees under disciplinary action
    6. When transport of weapons is prohibited by state or federal law
    7. Any temporary parking area

The last two provision of the law were significantly weakened by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and they still opposed the final bill. Also, Gov. Perdue threatened a veto before the compromise. Probably the worst thing about this provision is that only the state AG can bring action for illegal searches, which apparently means you can’t sue your employer for illegally searching your car. HB 89 would be a victory even with this provision completely gone, but it gives us another thing to work on next year. Until then, if you do business with any of their members, tell them you what you think about their membership in an organization that would oppose HB 89, or better yet, do business with a competitor who isn’t a member and let both companies know that, too.

In addition to strengthening the parking lot provisions, the following items that were in various versions of this bill and HB 915 need to be reintroduced and passed next year:

  • Replace the vague “public gathering” language with specific “prohibited buildings.”
  • Provide specific requirements for any prohibited building, such as security personnels, metal detectors, and a secure way for a permit holder to store his/her weapon while visiting the prohibited building.
  • This would also have the effect of removing churches and religious buildings from the list of prohibited places. As we saw in the New Life Church shooting in Utah where a member with a concealed carry permit and her own weapon stopped the murderer, this is an important provision.

Thanks again to GeorgiaCarry.org for their efforts to get this bill passed. Click the link and join and/or contribute today. Also see their Press Release (pdf). Thanks to GCO members Sen. John Douglas and Rep. Timothy Bearden were instrumental in getting this legislation passed. The NRA-ILA (Institute for Legislative Action) also deserves our thanks. Thanks to our friends at Banter in Atlanter for helping get the word out. Finally, thanks to all who wrote or called legislators on behalf of this bill: Rep. Bearden stated that our contacts made a difference on Friday when the situation appeared bleak.

UPDATE: Contact Gov. Perdue! He says he’s “concerned” about the bill, and getting pressure from the restaurant lobby.

UPDATE: It’s now signed into law and takes effect July 1, 2008.

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