First in a series of articles intent on providing information on Gun ownership, licensing and laws. It should be noted that I am not a lawyer and the following information should be taken only as a reference and should not to be construed as legal advice or as complete statements of law.
One of the integral parts of gun ownership is being able to carry a firearm, pursuant of individual state laws, in public and either openly or concealed. Each state has established certain criteria for gun ownership, licensing, and method of carry. There are not any existing Federal laws or criteria for carrying a firearm outside of the limitation within Federally prohibited areas. But because of reciprocity between some states that issue carry licenses, there is a Federal statue providing for the legal transportation of firearms across state borders:
18 U.S. Code § 926A – Interstate transportation of firearms
…any person, who is not otherwise prohibited by this chapter from transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm shall be entitled to transport a firearm for any lawful purpose from any where he may lawfully posses and carry such firearm to any other place where he may lawfully posses and carry such firearm…
Attention should be made to individual state qualifications on how a firearm, whether it be a hand gun or long gun, should be stored within a vehicle during transportation and the adherence to the laws of the state being visited if the firearm is to be carried.
Allowed and restricted areas of firearm carry will be explained in a future article.
Many states do not require licensing for different methods of firearm (handgun and long gun) carry while other states do so and may also include additional restrictions. The State of Georgia does not require a license to carry a firearm within one’s home (domicile) or within their property line. The property inclusion does consider a motor vehicle as property and further allows for unlicensed carry within one’s own business. Additionally the State of Georgia does not require licensing of carrying a long gun outside of one’s own property, but with conditions. As such, all references to ‘firearm’ in the rest of this article shall mean a ‘hand gun’.
Georgia Weapons Carry License
The State of Georgia is a ‘Shall Issue’ state, meaning that an applicant, after meeting certain requirements shall be issued a license to carry. Before January 1, 2012 the license was called ‘Georgia Firearm License’. Any license issued after January 1, 2012 is known as ‘Georgia Weapons Carry License’, (GWCL). This change reflects that Georgia also considers a knife over 5″ long as a weapon. The license allows for carrying a firearm and/or a knife that is over 5″ in length.
Note: Local jurisdictions may have varying definitions of what is a legal length for a knife. Careful attention must be made if you are not licensed and carry a knife that is close to the state recognized length.
With a GWCL, a licensee may carry a firearm, either concealed or openly, in public outside of their home and property. There are certain areas that a GWCL holder may not legally carry but as with Federally prohibited areas, this will be outlined in a future article.
GWCL Application Process
The State of Georgia has determined that firearm application filings and processing to be done through the applicant’s local county Probate Court as administered by a Probate Judge.
The historical reason for applications to be processed by the judge or once was known as an ‘Ordinary’, of the local Probate Court in Georgia was borne out of ‘legally’ inhibiting freedmen the ability to own firearms. This will be detailed in a future article.
Requirements for submitting a carry license application:
Applicant must be at least 21years of age unless the applicant is at 18years of age and is in active military service and has received proper basic firearm training or has been honorably discharged.
Be a U.S. Citizen or provide proof of legal residence if the applicant is not a citizen of the United States
Have proof of residence in the county they seek to apply for the license
Provide a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope (S.A.S.E.)
Complete the application form
Pay the license application fee
Pay for and be fingerprinted.
By submitting an application and fingerprints, you are stating that you are willing to submit to a criminal records background check that is performed by the GBI, FBI and a mental health records check.
When filling out the application form, it may ask you for your Social Security number. It is not required and you do not have to provide it if you do not wish to.
Each Georgia county has its own use of the S.A.S.E.. Some counties will send you the license once it is approved. Others will send you a notification that you have been approved and to pick up the license at the central Probate Court for you county.
Fingerprinting can be done at your local Law Enforcement station and incurs a separate fee. As of July 1, 2014, a third party agency, approved by the G.B.I., in addition to your local Law Enforcement station will be able to process fingerprints. Also, fingerprinting for renewing a license is no longer required.
The method of payment of any or all fees are dependent of the local Probate Court and Law enforcement agency/Third party vendor. It is advised that you check online for the appropriate county probate office for the exact application process for your county and payment details.
Weapons carry license Process
Per the O.C.G.A. (Official Code of Georgia Annotated) 16-11-129:
Application for weapons carry license or renewal license; term. The judge of the probate court of each county may, on application under oath and on payment of a fee of $30.00, issue a weapons carry license or renewal license valid for a period of five years.
An applicant who is not a United States citizen shall provide sufficient personal identifying data, including without limitation his or her place of birth and United States issued alien or admission number, as the Georgia Bureau of Investigation may prescribe by rule or regulation.
An applicant who is in nonimmigrant status shall provide proof of his or her qualifications for an exception to the federal firearm prohibition pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 922(y).
No weapons carry license shall be issued to:
Any person younger than 21 years of age unless he or she:
Is at least 18 years of age;
Provides proof that he or she has completed basic training in the armed forces of the United States; and
Provides proof that he or she is actively serving in the armed forces of the United States or has been honorably discharged from such service
Any person who has been convicted of a felony;
Any person against whom proceedings are pending for any felony;
Any person who is a fugitive from justice;
Any person who is prohibited from possessing or shipping a firearm in interstate commerce pursuant to subsections (g) and (n) of 18 U.S.C. Section 922;
Any person who has been convicted of an offense arising out of the unlawful manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance or other dangerous drug;
Any person who has had his or her weapons carry license revoked
Any person who has been convicted of any of the following:
Carrying a weapon without a weapons carry license in violation of Code Section 16-11-126 (Carrying a weapon without a license); or
Carrying a weapon or long gun in an unauthorized location in violation of Code Section 16-11-127 (Carrying a weapon or long gun in an unauthorized location)
and has not been free of all restraint or supervision in connection therewith and free of any other conviction for at least five years immediately preceding the date of the application;
Any person who has been convicted of any misdemeanor involving the use or possession of a controlled substance and has not been free of all restraint or supervision in connection therewith or free of:
A second conviction of any misdemeanor involving the use or possession of a controlled substance;
for at least five years immediately preceding the date of the application;
Any person who has been hospitalized as an inpatient in any mental hospital or alcohol or drug treatment center within the five years immediately preceding the application. The judge of the probate court may require any applicant to sign a waiver authorizing any mental hospital or treatment center to inform the judge whether or not the applicant has been an inpatient in any such facility in the last five years and authorizing the superintendent of such facility to make to the judge a recommendation regarding whether the applicant is a threat to the safety of others and whether a license to carry a weapon should be issued. It shall be at the discretion of the judge, considering the circumstances surrounding the hospitalization and the recommendation of the superintendent of the hospital or treatment center where the individual was a patient, to issue the weapons carry license or renewal license;
Any person who has been adjudicated mentally incompetent to stand trial; or
Any person who has been adjudicated not guilty by reason of insanity at the time of the crime
GWCL Application Background Check Process
After submitting the application and be fingerprinted, the Probate Judge has five days to request direct the law enforcement agency to request a fingerprint based criminal history records check from the GBI’s Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC) and the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) for purposes of determining the suitability of the applicant. An additional request can be made for mental health, drug, or alcohol addiction records of the Georgia Department of Human Resources.
Once the Probate Judge has received the results of the background checks he will either approve or reject the application. If approved, the license will be processed. Depending on the county in which the license is issued, a notification that the license is ready to be picked up at the Probate Court or the license will be included in the notification. This process should not take any longer than the state prescribed 60day turnaround. If rejected, you may have legal recourse, depending on the reason for rejection, to appeal in court the said reason for the rejection.
With the GWCL, you can carry a firearm, either openly or concealed, within non-restricted areas. The GWCL is honored by other states that has reciprocity with Georgia. Additionally, a GWCL will serve as a background check for purchasing a firearm from an authorized FFL dealer.
As of July 1, 2014, a licensee of a GWCL must have on their possession or in reasonable proximity when they are carrying a firearm.