In 2010, Georgia significantly loosened its law limiting the manner in which “weapons carry” license holders may carry handguns.
Georgia now generally authorizes the carrying of a firearm by any person who:
- Has a valid “weapons carry” license and is carrying a handgun (regardless of whether the handgun is concealed);
- Is on his or her property or inside his or her home, motor vehicle, or place of business;
- Is carrying a long gun, even if the person does not have a license, provided that, if the long gun is loaded, it is carried openly;
- Is carrying a handgun enclosed in a case and unloaded, even if the person does not have a license;
- Is eligible for a weapons carry license (even if the person does not actually have a license) and is transporting a firearm in a passenger motor vehicle, provided that a private property owner may forbid possession of a firearm on his or her property; or
- Is licensed to carry a handgun or weapon in any other state whose laws recognize and give effect to a Georgia weapons carry license, while the licensee is not a resident of Georgia, provided that such licensee carries his or her weapon in compliance with Georgia law; or
- Has a valid hunting or fishing license, or who is otherwise legally engaged in hunting or fishing or sport shooting.1
Georgia is a “shall issue” state, meaning that a probate court judge must issue a “weapons carry” license if the applicant meets certain qualifications.2 The probate court judge must issue a license “unless facts establishing ineligibility have been reported or unless the judge determines such applicant has not met all the qualifications, is not of good moral character, or has failed to comply with all the requirements” contained in Georgia law.3
Applicants may apply for a “weapons carry” license to the probate court judge in the applicant’s county of residence.4 In 2010, Georgia loosened its eligibility requirements for licenses. Now, licenses will not be issued to any person:
- Under 21 years of age;5
- Who has been convicted of a felony and has not been pardoned;
- Against whom proceedings are pending for a felony;
- Who is a fugitive from justice;
- Who is prohibited from possessing a firearm pursuant to federal law;
- Who was convicted of an offense arising out of the unlawful manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance or other dangerous drug;
- Who has had his or her weapons carry license revoked within three years of the date of his or her application;
- Who was, during the five years immediately preceding the application, under restraint or supervision resulting from a conviction for carrying a weapon without a weapons carry license, carrying a weapon or long gun in an unauthorized location, or a misdemeanor involving the use or possession of a controlled substance; or
- Who has been hospitalized as an inpatient in a mental hospital or alcohol or drug treatment center within the five years preceding the application, although the judge retains discretion to issue a license to the individual in some circumstances.6
For purposes of these prohibitions, “convicted” means a plea of guilty, a finding of guilt, or the acceptance of a plea of nolo contendere.7
Every weapons license holder is required to have his or her valid weapons carry license in his or her immediate possession at all times when carrying a weapon, or if such person is exempt from having a weapons carry license, he or she must have proof of his or her exemption in his or her immediate possession at all times when carrying a weapon.8 However, a person convicted of a violation of this requirement may not be fined more than $10.00 for that violation if he or she produces his or her weapons carry license in court, or produces proof of his or her exemption, provided that it was valid at the time of his or her arrest.9
Within five business days following the receipt of an weapons carry application, the judge of the probate court is required to direct the law enforcement agency to request a criminal history records check from the Georgia Crime Information Center and Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as a background check using the FBI’s NICS database, for purposes of determining the suitability of the applicant.10 The law enforcement agency must then report to the judge of the probate court within 30 days, by telephone and in writing, of any findings relating to the applicant which may bear on his or her eligibility for a weapons carry license or renewal license under Georgia law, although a report is not required if no such derogatory information is found on the applicant.11 The law enforcement agency must also return the application directly to the judge of the probate court within such time period.12 Not later than ten days after the judge of the probate court receives the report from the law enforcement agency concerning the suitability of the applicant for a license, the judge of the probate court shall issue the applicant a license or renewal license to carry any weapon unless facts establishing ineligibility have been reported or unless the judge determines such applicant has not met all the qualifications, is not of good moral character, or has failed to comply with any of the requirements contained in Georgia law.13
Petition for Relief from License Prohibition
Georgia has enacted a procedure for individuals prohibited from obtaining weapons licenses as a result of being hospitalized in any mental hospital or alcohol or drug treatment center, or being adjudicated mentally incompetent to stand trail, or adjudicated not guilty by reason of insanity in a criminal trial to petition for relief from the prohibition.14 Such persons may petition the court in which such adjudication, hospitalization, or treatment proceedings, if any, occurred.15 A copy of the petition for relief must be served as notice upon the opposing civil party or the prosecuting attorney for the state, as the case may be, or their successors, who appeared in the underlying case.16 Within 30 days of the receipt of such petition, the court is required to hold a hearing on the petition for relief, in which the prosecuting attorney for the state may represent the interests of the state.17 At the hearing, the court shall receive and consider evidence in a closed proceeding concerning:
- The circumstances which caused the person to be subject to the weapons license prohibition;
- The person’s mental health and criminal history records, if any;18
- The person’s reputation, which shall be established through character witness statements, testimony, or other character evidence; and
- Changes in the person’s condition or circumstances since his or her adjudication, hospitalization, or treatment proceedings.19
The judge must issue an order of his or her decision within 30 days after the hearing.20 The court is required to grant the petition for relief if the judge finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the person will not likely act in a manner dangerous to public safety in carrying a weapon and that granting the relief will not be contrary to the public interest.21 If the court grants the petition for relief, the clerk of the court shall report the order to the Georgia Crime Information Center immediately, and in no case later than ten business days after the date of such order.22 If the court denies the petition, the person may not petition for relief more than once every two years.23 Additionally, a person who has been hospitalized as an inpatient may not petition for relief under this process prior to being discharged from such treatment.24
Firearm Safety Training
Georgia does not require applicants to undergo firearm safety training or otherwise demonstrate competence with a firearm.
Duration & Renewal
Georgia “weapons carry” licenses are valid for five years.25 Renewal licenses are also valid for five-year periods, and are subject to the same requirements as an original license, except that fingerprinting is not required for applicants seeking temporary renewal licenses or renewal licenses.26 If less than 90 days remain before expiration of a license or the license expired within the last 30 days, the license holder may apply for a temporary renewal license, which expires in 90 days.27
Disclosure or Use of Information
The Georgia rules governing the inspection of public records do not apply to any application submitted to or any permanent records maintained by a probate court judge relating to “weapons carry” licenses, or pursuant to any other requirement for maintaining records relative to the possession of firearms.28 Law enforcement agencies and probate court judges may obtain records relating to licensing and possession of firearms as provided by law.29 In addition, license application forms must “be designed to elicit information from the applicant pertinent to his or her eligibility” for a license, and shall not “require data which is nonpertinent or irrelevant such as serial numbers or other identification capable of being used as a de facto registration of firearms owned by the applicant.”30
Georgia law allows a person licensed to carry a handgun or weapon in another state whose laws recognize and give effect to a Georgia weapons carry license to carry a handgun in Georgia, but only while the licensee is not a resident of Georgia.31 The licensee must carry the handgun in compliance with Georgia laws.32 The Georgia Attorney General is required to create and maintain on the Department of Law’s website a list of those states whose laws recognize and give effect to Georgia carry licenses. An individual who is licensed to carry in another state and becomes a resident of Georgia is allowed to carry pursuant to his or her out-of-state license for no more than 90 days so long as the individual applies for a Georgia concealed carry license as soon as practicable. The licensee must carry the handgun in compliance with Georgia laws.33
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- Ga. Code Ann. §§ 16-11-126(a)-(f).
- Ga. Code Ann. §§ 16-11-129(a), (d)(4).
- Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(d)(4).
- Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(a).
- Georgia law provides an exception for a person who is at least 18 years old who provides proof that he or she has completed basic training in the U.S. Armed Forces and is either actively serving or has been honorably discharged from such service. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(b)(2)(A).
- Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(b)(2).
- Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(b)(1)(C).
- Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-137(a).
- Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-137(c).
- Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(d)(1), (2).
- Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(d)(4).
- Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(b.1).
- Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(b.1)(1).
- The judge of the court may require any such person to sign a waiver authorizing the superintendent of any mental hospital or treatment center to make to the judge a recommendation regarding whether such person is a threat to the safety of others. When such a waiver is required by the judge, the applicant shall pay a fee of $3.00 for reimbursement of the cost of making such a report by the mental health hospital, alcohol or drug treatment center, or the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, which the judge shall remit to the hospital, center, or department.
- Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(b.1)(2).
- Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(b.1)(3). A record shall be kept of the hearing; provided, however, that such records shall remain confidential and be disclosed only to a court or to the parties in the event of an appeal. Any appeal of the court’s ruling on the petition for relief shall be de novo review. Id.
- Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(b.1)(4).
- Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(b.1)(5).
- Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(a).
- Id, Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(c) .
- See Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129 for further information related to license renewals.
- Ga. Code Ann. § 50-18-72(a)(40).
- Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(a).
- Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-126(e).
- Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-126(e)(1)(b)(2).