With numerous thefts, armed robberies and home invasions being reported in the community lately, there’s been a lot of talk about “packing guns.”  And on Thursday, a Moultrie attorney discussed the changes made to Georgia’s gun laws in a presentation to the Moultrie Kiwanis Club.

Attorney Hamilton Garner said the changes to Georgia’s gun laws came into effect on June 4. The laws made several changes to where someone can or can not possess or carry a handgun or knife with a five-inch or longer blade, regardless of whether the person has a gun permit or not.

The changes come at a good time for Georgia, as Garner said applications for gun-carrying permits have skyrocketed recently. The gun laws can get very complicated, but he said he has never seen anyone following the law being arrested for gun possession.

According to the new laws, Garner said the State of Georgia is now the sole authority for regulating guns and knives in Georgia, except for federal laws. Counties and municipalities can prohibit discharging a gun within its limits, but no other laws can be made that supersede state law.

Another change to the law is that gun registration is not required to own one, Garner said. The Moultrie Police Department will allow someone to register a gun, but the main benefit of registration is the information will be available if it is stolen. Garner offered another solution besides registering a gun.

“If you’re afraid of your gun being stolen,” Garner said, “write down the serial number and keep it somewhere safe.”

Garner said the new laws prohibit bringing a gun into any building housing a government body such as a courthouse, a place of worship, within 150 feet of a polling place, inside school buildings or school events whether you have a license or not. The only exemptions to the law are for law enforcement officers, judges, prosecutors and corrections officers. They can bring a gun into these places.

With a valid license, Garner said a person can now have a gun anywhere not prohibited by state or federal law, such as parks, historic sites and on public transportation except federally-regulated modes of transportation. In addition, a person can bring a gun to a professional sports event, but a ban is still in place for bringing a gun to high school sports events because they are school events.

“It’s not just the place anymore,” Garner said, “but its now the type of event and the place.”

A person can also possess a gun, long gun or knife in their own home or property, any motor vehicles, places of business they own or while hunting without a  license, Garner said. Someone may also carry a long gun without a license if it is carried in an open and exposed way and can carry a handgun if it is in a closed case and unloaded. A private property owner may also prohibit someone from bringing a gun onto their property.

Garner also discussed the difference in the use of force as described by the new law. He said a person can use a reasonable amount of force to defend himself, another person or his property with the minimum amount of force necessary to end the situation. Deadly force can be used to defend yourself or someone else from the attempt of a forcible felony, such as aggravated assault, rape or burglary.

To help the Kiwanis members understand this, Garner gave examples of how to tell the difference between the amount of force required in a situation. He said deadly force is not justifiable if someone is stealing your car, but it is justifiable in a carjacking attempt with you in the car.

“If your life is in danger,” Garner said, “you can use deadly force.

Following his address, Garner answered several questions and heard comments from club members. One member asked about non-U.S. citizens being able to own a gun or get a permit, and Garner said non-citizens can legally own a gun and get a permit.

Another member asked if someone can carry a gun in a church or school parking lot, and Garner said the law is geared more toward the buildings primarily. Students at a school, however, are prohibited from carrying a gun in a school parking lot.

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