In 2022, Georgia enacted “permitless carry” legislation that repealed longstanding protections that had previously required people to obtain a license (called a “weapons carry license”), pursuant to a fingerprint background check, in order to be eligible to carry concealed loaded firearms in public spaces in Georgia.1 Effective April 12, 2022, Georgia now generally permits any “lawful weapons carrier” to carry handguns openly or concealed in most public spaces without any background check or permit required.2 A person is a “lawful weapons carrier” if (1) they would be eligible for a weapons carry license under Georgia law (whether or not they have a license) and are not otherwise prohibited by law from possessing a handgun or long gun, (2) if they are a resident of any other state who would otherwise be eligible to obtain a weapons carry license under Georgia law but for the residency requirement, or (3) if they are licensed to carry a weapon in any other state.3 (More information is provided below about who is eligible for a weapons carry license and therefore now eligible to carry handguns in public spaces without a permit).
Georgia has retained its weapons carry licensing process to enable people who wish to carry in other states that require a license to be able to obtain one.
Georgia law generally requires a probate court judge to issue a license to an applicant who meets the minimum qualifications,4 although there is some partial discretion in the process to deny a license application if the probate court judge finds evidence that the applicant is not “of good moral character.”5
Applicants may apply for a “weapons carry” license to the probate court judge in the applicant’s county of residence.6 In 2010, Georgia loosened its eligibility requirements for licenses. Now, an applicant is generally eligible for a weapons carry license, unless the applicant:7
- Is under 21 years of age;8
- Has been convicted of a felony and has not been pardoned;
- Has proceedings pending for a felony;
- Is a fugitive from justice;
- Is prohibited from possessing a firearm pursuant to federal law;
- Has been convicted of an offense arising out of the unlawful manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance or other dangerous drug;
- Has had his or her weapons carry license revoked within 3 years of the date of their application;
- Was, during the 5 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
- Has been hospitalized as an inpatient in a mental hospital or alcohol or drug treatment center within the five years preceding the application, adjudicated mentally incompetent to stand trial, or adjudicated not guilty by reason of insanity in a criminal case, although the judge retains discretion to issue a weapons carry license to individuals subject to these mental health-related restrictions in some circumstances.9
(For the purposes of these prohibitions, “convicted” means a plea of guilty, a finding of guilt, or the acceptance of a plea of nolo contendere).10
Within five business days following the receipt of an weapons carry application, the judge of the probate court is required to direct the local 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.11 The law enforcement agency must then report to the judge of the probate court within 20 days, by telephone and in writing, of any findings relating to the applicant which may bear on their eligibility for a weapons carry license under Georgia law, although a report is not required if no such derogatory information is found on the applicant.12 The law enforcement agency must also return the application directly to the judge of the probate court within such time period.13 Not later than 10 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 is directed to issue the applicant 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 any of the requirements contained in Georgia law.14
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, being adjudicated mentally incompetent to stand trail, or being adjudicated not guilty by reason of insanity in a criminal trial, to petition a court to restore their eligibility for a weapons carry license.15 Such individuals may petition the court in which such adjudication, hospitalization, or treatment proceedings, if any, occurred.16 At the hearing, the court is required to 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;17
- 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.18
The judge must issue an order of his or her decision within 30 days after the hearing.19 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.20 If the court grants the petition for relief, the clerk of the court is directed to report the order to the Georgia Crime Information Center immediately, and in no case later than 10 business days after the date of such order.21 If the court denies the petition, the person may not petition for relief once every two years.22
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.23 Renewal licenses are also valid for 5-year periods, and are subject to the same requirements as an original license, except that fingerprinting is not required for applicants seeking renewal licenses.24 If fewer 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 renewal license.25 Otherwise, the applicant may apply with a fingerprint background check under the same process.
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.26 Law enforcement agencies and probate court judges may obtain records relating to licensing and possession of firearms as provided by law.27 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.”28
Georgia’s permitless carry law now generally permits residents of other states to carry concealed firearms in public in Georgia if (1) they would be eligible for a weapons carry license under Georgia law,29or (2) they are licensed to carry a weapon in any other state (even if they would for any reason not be eligible for a weapons carry license in Georgia).30
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- 2021 GA SB 319; Ga. Code Ann. §§ 16-11-127(c); 16-11-125.1.
- Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-127(c); 16-11-126(g); 16-11-125.1(5) (defining “weapon” to mean a handgun or knife).
- Ga. Code Ann. §§ 16-11-125.1(2.1).
- Ga. Code Ann. §§ 16-11-129(a), (d)(4).
- Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(d)(4).
- Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(a).
- Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(b)(2).
- 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. § 16-11-129(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). 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. Id. 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. Id.
- 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 must 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). 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. Id.
- Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(a)(1).
- Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(c).
- See Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(a)(2)(C).
- Ga. Code Ann. § 50-18-72(a)(40).
- Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(a).
- See Ga. Code Ann. §§ 16-11-127(c); 16-11-125.1 (defining “lawful weapons carrier” to include “any resident of any other state who would otherwise be eligible to obtain a [weapons carry license] but for the residency requirement”).
- See Ga. Code Ann. §§ 16-11-127(c); 16-11-125.1 (defining “lawful weapons carrier” to include “any person licensed to carry a weapon in any other state”).