Archive for the 'News' Category

Letter to Chief Justice Melton

Friday, March 27th, 2020

JOHN R. MONROE

JOHN MONROE LAW, P.C.

                                                                              March 27, 2020

The Hon. Harold D. Melton, Chief Justice Supreme Court of Georgia
330 Capitol Avenue, SE
Atlanta, GA  30334

RE:  Constitutional Implication of Judicial Emergency

Dear Chief Justice Melton:

I hope my letter finds you well during these difficult times.

I am writing you regarding a constitutional issue that has arisen as an indirect result of your declaration of a judicial emergency.  As you know, Georgia law prohibits carrying a weapon outside one’s home, automobile, or place of business without a license.  O.C.G.A. § 16-11-126.  Handguns are defined to be weapons.  O.C.G.A. § 16-11-125.1.  The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment protects a fundamental, individual right to keep and carry arms in case of confrontation, and that the handgun is the quintessential arm for self- defense in America.  Your Court ruled in Nunn v. State that any provision of law banning the carrying of handguns openly is unconstitutional and void.  I submit that the licensing requirement in Georgia normally only comports with our Constitutions because of the (prior to the emergency) relative ease and low cost of obtaining a license.

The Council of Probate Judges has determined, pursuant to your declaration, that the issuance of weapons carry licenses pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 16-11-129 is a non-essential function.  As a result, the probate judges around the state are neither accepting nor processing applications for licenses.  The probate judges have determined that your declaration automatically extends the expiration dates of licenses, so renewals of licenses is not an immediate issue.

On the other hand, a Georgian wishing to obtain a new license is unable to do so.  He is faced with a statute requiring a license to carry a handgun in public and a sheer impossibility of even applying for a license, let alone obtaining one.  Even though he has state and federal constitutional rights to carry a handgun in case of confrontation, Georgia has essentially banned him from doing so.  The de facto ban appears to conflict with the Second Amendment and Georgia’s constitutional analog (Art. I, Sec. I, Par.VIII).

I have considered a variety of possible solutions to the problem, and I keep returning to what appears to be the simplest, easiest, and most straightforward: suspend enforcement of O.C.G.A. § 1611-126 for the duration of the emergency.

There are several factors supporting the suspension.  First, it would hardly be novel in our federal system.  The large majority of states do not prohibit carrying a handgun openly without a license.  In fact, a large minority of states do not even prohibit carrying a handgun concealed without a license.  The system “works” in those states without any apparent issues.

Second, the crime of carrying a weapon without a license is only malum prohibitum.  There is no inherent evil in going armed.

Third, if a person commits a crime with a firearm, such as robbery or murder, he still would be fully criminally liable for those actions.

The risk to public safety is therefore low in suspending enforcement, and the risk of not suspending enforcement is ongoing violation of Georgians’ constitutional rights on a widespread basis.

I already have asked Gov. Kemp to use his emergency powers to suspend enforcement of O.C.G.A. § 16-11-126 for the duration of the emergency (a copy of the letter to Gov. Kemp is enclosed/attached for your convenience).  I have discussed the issue with the Governor’s office, but to date he has not acted on the request.  I am hopeful that if you join me in encouraging Gov. Kemp to act, we can address this problem and abate it quickly.

Thank you for your attention.  I would be happy to discuss this matter with you further.

Sincerely,

John R. Monroe

156 Robert Jones Road     Dawsonville, Georgia 30534

678 362 7650                            jrm@johnmonroelaw.com

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GCO Asks Governor Kemp to Suspend Enforcement of O.C.G.A 16-11-126

Thursday, March 19th, 2020

Pursuant to Chief Justice Harold Melton’s Declaration of Statewide Judicial Emergency, the Council of Probate Judges has determined that processing GWL applications is a “non-essential” function.  Applications are therefore not being accepted during the emergency.  GCO has requested that Gov. Kemp use his emergency powers to suspend enforcement of OCGA 16-11-126 (carrying a weapon without a license) until such time as probate judges resume issuing GWLs.  Below are the contents of the letter sent to Governor Brian Kemp.

John R. Monroe

John Monroe Law, P.C.

                                                                    March 19, 2020

The Honorable Brian Kemp, Governor

RE:          Request of GeorgiaCarry.Org, Inc. to Suspend Enforcement of O.C.G.A. § 16-11-126 During COVID-19 Emergency

Dear Gov. Kemp:

I am writing you behalf of GeorgiaCarry.Org, Inc.  As you know, Chief Justice Melton has declared a Statewide Judicial Emergency and has ordered judges not to perform “non-essential” functions.  The Council of Probate Judges has determined that issuing Georgia weapons carry licenses (“GWLs”) is “non-essential.”  For the duration of the Judicial Emergency, the State is not issuing GWLs or even accepting applications for them.

O.C.G.A. § 16-11-126 prohibits carrying a weapon outside one’s home, automobile, or place of business without a GWL.  Violations are punishable as for a misdemeanor ($1,000 fine and 12 months in jail).

The only way our licensing requirement “works” constitutionally is with the relative ease for law-abiding citizens to  obtain a GWL.  We have moved from the status quo ante of relative ease to the current state of sheer impossibility of obtaining a GWL.

In order to preserve the Second Amendment and State Constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens during the emergency, I therefore request that you use your emergency powers to suspend enforcement of O.C.G.A. § 16-11-126 for the duration of the emergency.  This request is not a drastic one.  Dangerous people such as convicted felons and mentally ill will remain prohibited under state and federal law (O.C.G.A. § 16-11-131; 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)) from even possessing firearms, let alone carrying them.  The request would only allow people who already are permitted to possess firearms to carry them outside their homes, automobiles, and places of business in order to protect themselves and their families during this time of crisis.

Thank you in advance for your consideration and your leadership during this emergency, and please contact me if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

John R. Monroe

Vice President, GeorgiaCarry.Org, Inc.

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Expiration Dates of GWL Due Renewal Extended

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020

We are informed that the Probate Courts across the state of Georgia will temporarily suspend acceptance of applications for Georgia Weapons Carry Licenses and the renewal of Georgia Weapons Carry Licenses in pursuant to an order of the Supreme Court of GA declaring a Judicial Emergency.

We are told that if you license is due renewal during the Emergency period your license will not expire.  You will be able to renew after the Emergency ends and you current license will remain valid until April 13, 2020.

We will keep you informed if that date is extended further.

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GCO Asks Probate Judges to Extend GWL Expiration Dates

Sunday, March 15th, 2020
On March 14, 2020, Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton declared a state of judicial emergency.  Pursuant to his emergency powers, and pursuant to OCGA § 38-3-62, during the period of the order he has suspended, tolled, extended, and otherwise granted relief from any deadlines or other time schedules or filing requirements imposed by otherwise applicable statutes, rules, regulations, or court orders, whether in civil or criminal cases or administrative matters.
GCO takes the position that the expiration of a Georgia Weapons License (GWL) is a “deadline or other time schedule” of an “administrative matter” under the purview of judges, so that GWLs will not expire during the state of emergency.
For the avoidance of doubt, however, GeorgiaCarry.Org has asked the Council of Probate Judges to ask their members (i.e., the probate judges) to issue blanket orders extending GWL deadlines.

 

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Discussion of SB 224

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020

Sen. Elena Parent is criticizing SB 224 for “felons & other convicts allowed to have a variety of firearms.”  Not so.  Sen. Parent does not elaborate on what “other convicts” are besides felons.  Presumably, they must be misdemeanants.  Under Georgia law, there is no misdemeanor that deprives a person of the right to possess firearms, so SB 224 cannot and does not change that.  SB 224 does change the state definition of firearm to match the federal definition, so that felons in Georgia will be prohibited from possessing firearms under both state and federal law, but the law would not apply to “antique firearms” as that term has been defined by Congress.  This is not a “variety of firearms”  Antique firearms mostly consist of muzzle-loading guns.  Sen. Parent fails to tell her readers that, and she also fails to point to any crimes committed with a muzzle loading gun.  Long bows and cross bows have more firepower than muzzle loaders do, but Sen. Parent is not moving to ban them for felons.

Sen. Jones is criticizing SB 224 for its changes to the definition of aggravated assault.  Sen. Jones claims, incorrectly, that under current law aggravated assault is an assault with an attempt to murder.  That is only one of the several ways that aggravated assault can be committed, and SB 224 does not change that.  SB 224 addresses the problem that aggravated assault is committed if someone with a firearm does something that puts another person in reasonable apprehension of immediately receiving a violent injury.  That is, whether a person commits this 20-year felony is dependent on what the alleged “victim” feels about the incident.  GCO strongly believes that aggravated assault should only consist of serious negative behavior that is not dependent on the feelings of a third party that just happens to dislike firearms.

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Discussion of SB 357

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020

There has been media coverage and politician statements that GCO has circulated misinformation about loss of a GWL for conviction of carrying in a place of worship (both now and if SB 357 passes).  We believe the issue is more nuanced than that.  Under both current law and SB 357, if a person with a GWL is convicted of carrying in a place of worship, there is no possible jail time but there is a fine of up to $100 and the loss of a GWL if EITHER of the following are true:

  1. The person has not been free of all restraint or supervision in connection with the conviction for at least five years.  If the person is sentenced to pay a $100 fine, and the person pays the fine on the day the fine is imposed, then this condition will never be true and will not trigger a loss of GWL.  But, if the person is unable (or unwilling) to pay the $100 fine on the day the fine is imposed, the court will almost certainly put the person on probation until the fine is paid.  That means the person would be under “supervision.”  Even if only for one day of probation, this would result in a loss of GWL for five years.  In addition, if the person is put on probation and does not pay the fine, it is conceivable his probation would be revoked and he would be jailed.  This would be “restraint,” and again would trigger a five-year loss of license.
  2. The person has not been free of “any other conviction “ for at least five years. The law does not say for what the conviction has to be.  As it’s worded, a conviction for speeding would be “any other conviction.”  That means the person would have to have a completely blemish-free record for five years preceding the date of application.  It might be that the legislature intended for “any other conviction” to be another conviction for carrying in a place of worship, but that is not what the law says.

So, while is true that a loss of GWL does not necessarily accompany a conviction for carrying in a place of worship, it is a definite possibility.

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SB 224 Passed in Senate Judiciary Committee!

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020

But, the work is not over as we now need to contact more elected officials and press for passage in the Senate of SB224.  We also want to continue to push for a hearing on SB449.

Thanks to you, our members continue pressure on the Senate Judiciary Committee, last evening SB 224 by substitute, was passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and now heads to the Senate Rules Committee awaiting assignment to the Senate Floor where it will either pass the Senate on to the House or will be defeated on the Senate floor.  The explanation of the substitute bill is further down this email.

It should be noted that when Chairman Stone asked Senator Heath how this bill would harmonize with SB357, Senator Heath responded that he was a sponsor of SB224 and would like to see it passed and if it does pass, he would withdraw SB357 and support SB224.  Senator Heath also mentioned that there is a so-called Second Amendment Group that has opposed every good gun bill in the last several years and asked if there were any Georgia Gun Owners members in the audience.  Crickets!

The vote came at about 8:15 PM last evening and was a 5 to 3 vote along party lines.  And, the three Democrats that voted against passage of the bill were none too happy.  In fact, Senator Elena Parent sent out the following tweet – ” GA Senate Judiciary cmte just passed a truly horrific gun bill (SB 224) out of committee. Guns in churches & courthouses, felons & other convicts allowed to have a variety of firearms, & changed definition of aggravated assault to make brandishing a firearm A-OK. Etc.”  Anyone with any understanding of the bill will recognize the tweet for what it is – a total misdirection of what the bill actually does.

We need to all contact the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow thanking them for their support of our bill. That is, the members listed below who voted for our bill.

Senator Jesse Stone
Capitol Office
325-A Coverdell Legislative Office Building
Atlanta, GA 30334
Office: (404) 463-1314
Fax: (404) 463-1381
District Office
827 N. Liberty Street
Waynesboro, GA 30830
Office: (706) 554-5223
Fax: (478) 237-9211

Senate Judiciary Committee
Cowsert, BillVice​-Chairman
Capitol Office
121- F State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334
Office: (404) 463-1366
Fax: (404) 657-9887
Secretary
Capitol Office
109 State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334
Office: (404) 656-0089
Member
Capitol Office
110-C State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334
Office: (404) 656-3943
Fax: (404) 463-2279
Capitol Office
421-D State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334
Office: (404) 656-0045
Fax: (404) 651-6768
Capitol Office
121-H State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334
Office: (404) 463-1383
Capitol Office
109 State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334
Office: (404) 656-7454

We need to continue to contact Chairman Jesse Stone requesting a hearing on SB449, along with your Senator if he/she is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

=================​

We also need to turn our efforts towards getting SB224 out of the Rules Committee and on to the Senate Floor for a vote by contacting Rules Committee Chairman Jeff Mullis and any of your Senators who sit on the Rules Committee.  Those members can be found here.

Senator Jeff Mullis

​​Capitol Office

453 State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334
Office: (404) 656-0057
Fax: (404) 651-6768
​​​District Information
212 English Avenue
Chickamauga, GA 30707
Office: (706) 375-1776

Please contact Chairman Mullis and your Senator if he/she is on the committee.

=================​

Continue Contacting ​Lt. Governor, Geoff Duncan
​We need to contact the Lt. Governor requesting a floor vote on SB224.  His contact is below:

We also need you to ​keep contacting Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan and requesting the Senate move SB449 by Hearing it in the Senate Judiciary Committee.  His contact information is below:
Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan
240 State Capitol
Atlanta, GA  30334
Phone: 404656-5030
​Email:   geoff.duncan@ltgov.ga.gov  ​

Please continue to contact the Lt. Governor, requesting him to bring SB224 to a floor vote.

=================​

Begin Contacting Senate Pro Tempore, Butch Miller requesting he bring SB224 to the Senate Floor for a vote.  His contact information is below:

Senator Butch Miller, Senate Pro Tempore

    Capitol Office

321 State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334
Office: (404) 656-6578email: butch.miller@senate.ga.gov

District Information

2420 Browns Bridge Road
Gainesville, GA 30504

=================​

Continue to contact Speaker David Ralston and tell him you want a good gun bill introduced in the House similar to SB 224. His contact information is:

Capitol Address
332 State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334
404.656.5020 – Office
404.656.5644 – Fax
District Address
PO Box 188
Blue Ridge, GA 30513
706.632.2221 – Office
706.632.6193 – Fax
​And as always, be brief, to the point and courteous in both your written word as well as you​r​ phone calls
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The reason we are against SB357 – Carrying Firearms in Places of Worship

Tuesday, February 25th, 2020

SB357 addressed some concerns of the church concerning carrying in churches. This bill would allows churches to operate more like private property but would not strike them from the off limits places, therefore not classifying them as private property. It would continue with the provision of up to $100 fine for caught carrying in a place of worship.

The fundamental issues is that churches should not be treated differently from any other private property owners.  It is a violation of the state constitution for the state to spend money in aid of churches.  By having a special process for churches (including criminal laws that ordinary private property owners cannot use), the state is spending money via law enforcement in aid of churches.

​This bill is worse than what we presently have in place.  If a church presently allows anyone with a license to carry​ in church, they must allow everyone to carry.  This bill allows them to selectively pick and choose who can and cannot carry.  Therefore, there is a very high probability that most churches that presently allow carry will drop that provision and allow only the chosen ones to carry.

We are told that churches feel they are sitting ducks and need this provision.  We do not disagree on that point.  But, should this bill become law, and the churches who now allow you to carry decide that only a chosen few can carry, you too would become a sitting duck as well since they would be allowed to pick and choose who can and cannot carry.  We agree that private property owners have to power to do that presently but there is no penalty associated with carrying on private property.

However, churches are somehow “special private property owners” which should not be the case.  If the General Assembly and the churches want churches to have the provisions of private property owners, the churches should be stricken from the prohibited list and remove the $100 penalty for being caught carrying in a church.

Funny how the churches will cry separation of church and state but lobby heavily to keep the government’s presence on this one issue. Funny how the General Assembly will ignore private property rights and go along with the churches.

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Begin Lobbying Now!

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

This session of the General Assembly has started and hearings on legislation will begin in a couple of weeks or less.  In an effort to let our legislators know what we expect of them this year, we need to begin work now in contacting the members who can help us and get the ball rolling.  It is time to start lobbying NOW!

This is an election year and the majority party, although acutely aware that their offices will be on the line in November of this year, need to be reminded that you, I and other Second Amendment supporters put them in office and they need our support to continue to remain in office.  As always, please remember to be courteous in our contact with them in discussions whether it is face to face or by written word.

As you are aware, we introduced SB 224 last year and we want it to pass this year. SB 224:

  • Would change the definition of a Courthouse to the portion of the building occupied by the superior court and containing rooms in which superior court proceedings are held.
  • Strike churches from the off-limits location
  • Remove misdemeanor​- controlled substance convictions as a disqualifier for a GWL
  • Change the definition of a firearm to exclude antique firearms
  • Allow carry of knives in non-sterile areas of the airport with a GWL
  • Force the sale of confiscated firearms by law enforcement
  • Repeal Code Section 38-2-301
  • Protect private property owners from being sued for allowing firearms in their businesses
Begin Contacting the Lt. Governor, Chairman Jesse Stone and your Senator on the Senate Judiciary Committee:
​We need your help to ensure passage of SB 224. We need you to start contacting Jesse Stone, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and request a hearing for SB 224.  We also need you to start contacting Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan and request the same thing.  Their contact information is below:
Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan
240 State Capitol
Atlanta, GA  30334
Phone: 404656-5030
You can email the Lt. Governor but going to this page and filling in the form.  It is easier to call and will get more notice.
Senator Jesse Stone
Capitol Office
325-A Coverdell Legislative Office Building
Atlanta, GA 30334
Office: (404) 463-1314
Fax: (404) 463-1381
District Office
827 N. Liberty Street
Waynesboro, GA 30830
Office: (706) 554-5223
Fax: (478) 237-9211
Also, if your senator is a member of the Judiciary Committee listed below, please contact him as well and request their support in obtaining a hearing for SB 224!
Senate Judiciary Committee
Cowsert, BillVice Chairman
Capitol Office
121- F State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334
Office: (404) 463-1366
Fax: (404) 657-9887
Secretary
Capitol Office
109 State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334
Office: (404) 656-0089
Member
Capitol Office
110-C State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334
Office: (404) 656-3943
Fax: (404) 463-2279
Capitol Office
421-D State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334
Office: (404) 656-0045
Fax: (404) 651-6768
Capitol Office
121-H State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334
Office: (404) 463-1383
Capitol Office
109 State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334
Office: (404) 656-7454
We need you to start today and continue to call daily until we get a hearing scheduled.  ​
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GCO Vice President John Monroe answers questions on GA HB435

Thursday, October 24th, 2019

GCO has received many inquiries from members of other organizations, wanting to know why we oppose HB 435 (the Red Flag Law Bill). They say their organizations just oppose the bill without providing any analysis they can use to discuss the bill. So, we are providing the following analysis as a public service.

HB 435 provides a mechanism for someone (the “petitioner”) to petition a superior court to seize another person’s (the “respondent’s”) firearms and ammunition. That should be the first “red flag.” The respondent’s property is being taken without just compensation, in violation of the 5th Amendment.

The petitioner can be any law enforcement officer (“LEO”) or anyone who ever lived with the respondent in the same dwelling. This means college roommates and other casual acquaintances that once shared housing can file petitions. The petition can be filed in the county where the respondent resides or in the county where the petitioner’s law enforcement agency is located. In other words, the venue does not have to be in the county of the respondent’s residence, in violation of the state constitutional provision requiring that a person be sued in his own county. The petitioner can be in Valdosta and the respondent can be in Blue Ridge, and the petitioner can file in Lowndes County (Valdosta). Guess who has to drive five hours to defend himself?

The petitioner has to swear under oath that the respondent poses a significant danger of causing personal injury to himself or others by possessing a firearm. The petitioner has to identify the quantities, types, and locations of firearms and ammunition the respondent possesses (but there is no downside to the petitioner if the petitioner is wrong as long as the petitioner is not lying).

The petitioner has to attempt to notify a person who lived or formerly lived with the respondent, but has no obligation to attempt to notify the respondent himself. A hearing must be held within 14 days of filing the petition, so the respondent has only two weeks to find and hire a lawyer (perhaps hundreds of miles away), meet with the lawyer, prepare a defense, arrange for witnesses, and show up and put on the defense.

In the meantime, the petitioner could have requested an “ex parte” order, meaning the court could issue a “risk protection order” without notice to respondent. The standard for the ex parte order is very low, there only has to be “reasonable cause” to believe the respondent poses a significant danger to himself and others. This standard is below even “probable cause,” which at least would require that it is more likely than not that the respondent poses a danger. If the judge finds reasonable cause, the judge is required to issue an ex parte order.

An ex parte order requires the respondent to surrender all firearms and ammunition to a law enforcement agency. The agency can seek a search warrant if it wants to. The respondent has no opportunity to make alternative arrangements. The property is seized. After seizure, the respondent can request that the property be transferred to a third party.

At the 14-day hearing, the standard becomes higher. There must be clear and convincing proof that respondent poses a significant danger to himself or others. The respondent has no opportunity for discovery or any ability to know in advance what the evidence against him is. He has no meaningful opportunity to prepare for the hearing.

A respondent may request, one time, a hearing to vacate an order. The hearing is held 14-30 days after petitioner is served (i.e., the petitioner gets more notice for a hearing to vacate than the respondent gets for the initial hearing when he does not even know there is a case against him). At the hearing to vacate, the burden is on the respondent to prove by clear and convincing evidence that he does not pose a danger to himself or others (i.e., he must prove a negative).

A risk protection order can last up to 12 months, but it may be extended indefinitely with successive 12-month orders.

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