1. What does the new law do? There no longer is a requirement to obtain a GWL in order to carry a weapon in Georgia.
2. Does that mean anyone can carry a weapon? No. The requirement to have a GWL is changed to a requirement to be a “lawful weapons carrier.” A person who is not a lawful weapons carrier may not carry.
3. What is the requirement to be a lawful weapons carrier? 1) Anyone with a valid GWL; 2) Anyone who is eligible for a GWL (or would be eligible but for his or her non-residency in Georgia); or 3) Anyone who has a weapons carry license (or similar license) issued by another state. This means a Georgia resident who has a license from another state may carry based on the other state’s license. It also means a person under 21 years old but who obtains a license from another state may carry.
4. I heard the law now allows criminals to carry. Is that true? No. If a person’s criminal history would make the person ineligible for a GWL (such as a convicted felon), that person would not be able to carry.
5. If the requirement for a GWL is eliminated, then what stops a felon from carrying? Previously, there was a misdemeanor called carrying a weapon without a license (in addition to the felony of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon). That misdemeanor has been replaced with a new misdemeanor of carrying a weapon without being a lawful weapons carrier (and the same felony of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon). In other words, the punishment for a felon carrying a firearm is exactly the same.
6. Are there any changes to off limits areas, for a lawful weapons carrier? No. Off limits areas remain in effect for lawful weapons carriers, as outlined in OCGA 16-11-126, 16-11-127, 16-11-127.1, 16-11-127.2, and 16-11-130.2.
7. Will lawful weapons carriers have or not have the right of retreat if they enter a government building and they are stopped by security? They will have that right, the same way GWL holders can today.
8. Will GWLs still be available? Yes. The GWL process remains unchanged. Many people will continue to maintain a GWL for the purpose of the alternative to the NICS check when purchasing a firearm from a licensed gun dealer and for reciprocity with other states.
9. What about the federal 1000-foot school zone law? This is unclear. The federal GFSZ was previously declared to be unconstitutional, but Congress changed the law in an attempt to make it constitutional and its current status has not been definitively established. If it now is constitutional, it has an exception for people issued a license by the state where the school zone is that allows a person to carry in the school zone. There no longer is a license issued by Georgia that allows a person to carry in a school zone, unless the law itself is considered to be a license.
10. Will lawful weapons carriers be required to carry ID with them? No, there is no such requirement.
11. How does the new law affect reciprocity with other states? That will depend on the individual laws of other states. If another state recognizes a GWL, then carry in such a state would be lawful for GWL holders. If another state does not require a license (e.g., another permitless carry state), then the requirements for permitless carry would have to be observed. It is possible, though perhaps unlikely, that another state would cease to recognize a GWL because that state’s laws require that a reciprocal license permit a person to carry a concealed weapon and going forward GWLs do not technically give such permission. Please check the laws of the reciprocal state and proceed appropriately.
12. How does the new law affect the purchase of firearms in Georgia FFLs? There is no change for an FFL (gun store, pawn shop, sporting goods store) who may allow a GWL holder to bypass the NICS background check. Lawful weapons carriers without a GWL will still be required to get the NICS background check when purchasing a firearm.
13. How does the new law apply at airports? The crime of hijacking (for carrying a weapon within a reasonable distance of a transportation terminal) used to apply only to people without GWLs. Now it applies only to people who are not lawful weapons carriers. The separate crime of attempting to take a weapon through security at a commercial service airport still only provides an exemption for GWL holders and not lawful weapons carriers. While a GWL holder is not charged with any state crimes for accidentally leaving a gun in carry-on luggage, he still will be charged with a federal crime. The policy of TSA for finding guns in carry-on luggage is to turn the person over to local authorities. But if there is no state crime violated, TSA refers the person to federal law enforcement at the airport. So, the difference between GWL holders and lawful weapons carriers is that the former will receive a federal citation and the latter will be arrested by Atlanta police. For first-time offenders, the federal citation tends to be a more lenient treatment than the state law arrest, but neither person escapes prosecution.