An article from Jim Galloway in the AJC pointed out several points of interest from the Associated County Commissioners of Georgia in their opposition to HB 875. The article can be found here and GeorgiaCarry.Org’s response to each is posted below for your benefit to help you inform the public to the truth about their “concerns”. GeorgiaCarry.Org’s responses are in red.
ACCG Concerns with HB 875
Allowing Weapons in Government Buildings:
The legislation allows for weapons to be carried by a licensed holder in any government building where there are no restrictions or screening by security at the entrance. Since many county government buildings are not restricted and do not have security, this means that weapons would be allowed to be carried into most county buildings during regular business hours including libraries, offices of the tax assessor, meeting rooms for zoning and tax hearings, and other facilities unless security is provided.
Many of the locations listed already are not off-limits for carrying weapons by weapons carry license holders. For example, libraries are not included in the current definition of “government buildings,” and meeting rooms for zoning and tax hearings may not be as well. The overriding policy in the bill is that if the government chooses not to provide full-time security for the building, that is the local government’s choice. But then weapons carry license holders will be permitted to provide their own security for themselves and their families. What in any government building that is currently unsecured, not restricted and do not have security keeps weapons out of these building as things currently stand? One could deduce that the buildings are currently OK with the county leaders but would require them to be secured if GWL holders are allowed to enter unencumbered. If things remain as is, only law abiding citizens would be denied access to these unsecured buildings as they are the only portion of the citizenry that obeys the law when it comes to carrying firearms.
Providing security in all county government buildings is a costly expense that would have to be shouldered by the taxpayers of the county for the benefit of a few.
This is not correct. Nothing in the bill mandates providing security. If the county chooses not to secure its buildings, that is a local government choice. But if the government does not provide security, the citizens should be free to provide their own. It also is not clear who the “few” are that will be benefited by security. Isn’t every employee and visitor benefited by security? Again, if security is not necessary at this point in time, why would it have to change other than to deny law-abiding citizens their second amendment rights of self defense?
Absent providing security, allowing weapons in government buildings exposes the county to greater liability and may increase insurance premiums for those counties with the additional cost being shouldered again by the taxpayer.
Is there any data to back this up? Given that the vast majority of privately-owned but publicly-accessible buildings do not prohibit weapons (banks, grocery stores, retail stores generally), the logical conclusion is that their decision not to prohibit weapons has no effect on their insurance premiums. We can find no legal support for the notion that government has greater liability if it does not prohibit weapons. A better argument can be made that government has greater liability when it prohibits weapons yet fails to provide full time security. A very weak argument as many corporations allow carry on their premises and they are not burdened with costly liability insurance premiums when they follow the state law. Does anyone not know what it could cost the state as well as the local government should some citizen who was denied their right to self protection and killed in an unsecure building owned by the local government?
ACCG Recommendation: The decision to allow weapons in county buildings, and which ones, should be made by county commissioners — those elected by and accountable to their respective communities.
This would result in a patchwork of government buildings that do and do not allow weapons, leaving citizens with little ability to know where they can and cannot carry. It is much better to have a state-wide policy that applies to everyone.
Inability to Detain Persons Carrying a Weapon:
The legislation prohibits the person carrying a weapon from being subject to detention to ensure they are licensed to carry the weapon.
The supreme court has determined that the carrying of a weapon does not constitute probable cause and does not mean that a crime has been committed or is about to be committed. Why would a local government want to deny that right to a citizen? It is unconstitutional to stop someone who is seen driving just to see if the person has a license to drive (Delaware v. Prouse, Supreme Court of the United States). Given that death rates from cars is about 5 times higher than from guns, it is logical to conclude that it would not be constitutional to stop a person seen carrying a firearm just to see if he has a license. Plus, no license is needed to carry a rifle or shotgun in Georgia, so there would be nothing to check for.
Not every person who carries a weapon is licensed to do so. This bill effectively prohibits law enforcement or security officers from checking whether a person carrying a weapon is properly licensed. Preventing a law enforcement officer from confirming that the person is properly licensed could result in the commission of crime that might otherwise have been prevented.
Criminals are not known to be open carriers of weapons. They conceal them until they begin their crime. There is no reason to believe this line of thought is accurate.
ACCG Recommendation: This provision should be removed from the bill.
Private Right of Action/Attorneys Fees:
The legislation allows any individual or organization, whether or not aggrieved, to sue a county alleging that the county is regulating, or attempting to regulate, firearms or weapons dealers, gun shows, or possession, licensing or registration of weapons via zoning or other local ordinances.
The bill not only allows for a suit to be brought against a county or its policymaking body, but also an individual elected official or employee of the county.
Normally, parties to a legal dispute pay their own litigation expenses and attorney fees. This bill, by contrast, places the burden of bringing, trying and defending a lawsuit on county taxpayers–whether or not the county has actually violated the law. Since a plaintiff under this law has “no skin in the game”, it opens the door to unnecessary (or perhaps harassing) litigation.
The description of the language is inaccurate. By its own terms, the bill says “the aggrieved person shall be entitled to….” A person who is not aggrieved is not entitled to any reimbursement other than typical costs of litigation (that always are recoverable by a victorious party).
ACCG Recommendation: This provision should be narrowed so that only those who are aggrieved have the right to bring suit. Furthermore, counties should be able to recover their litigation expenses and attorneys fees as well.
Both state and federal law are rife with fee-shifting provisions, most commonly in the area of suits between citizens and the government. Congress and legislatures around the county recognize the fact that citizens and government have unequal power when it comes to litigation. Citizens have to pay attorneys or find attorneys to take cases on contingency. In cases where the harm does not cause significant damage, such as when governments refuse to follow the law, there is nothing to take on a contingency. The citizen has to hire an attorney out of pocket or go without the right to which he is entitled. Governments, on the other hand, generally have attorneys on staff or insurance to pay for defense. As compared to the average citizen, the government has virtually unlimited legal resources. Congress and legislatures around the country have sought to balance this inequity by shifting fees to the government when a plaintiff is victorious. This provides an incentive for attorneys to take cases and for citizens to vindicate their rights. If the government also had a fee-shifting possibility, then the incentive would be watered down or eliminated altogether. The prospect of having to pay the government’s defense costs would eliminate virtually all litigation.