Commission's repeal of gun ban was wise move
"No county or municipal corporation, by zoning or by ordinance, resolution or other enactment, shall regulate in any manner gun shows; the possession, ownership, transport, carrying, transfer, sale, purchase, licensing, or registration of firearms or components of firearms, firearms dealers; or dealers in firearms components."
That's the wording of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated at 16-11-173 (2)(b)(1), and it's abundantly clear that it prohibits local governments from regulating, beyond the bounds of state law, where and how firearms can be carried by people lawfully licensed to do so.
Thus, the Athens-Clarke County Commission was wise to decide last week not to defend a county ordinance, specifically Section 1-10-4 (a)(3) of the county code, prohibiting the possession of firearms in the county's public parks. The ordinance has been challenged by GeorgiaCarry.org
, a Fayetteville-based gun rights group that is challenging similar ordinances on the books in local jurisdictions across the state.
The Athens-Clarke ordinance will be repealed by the commission at its Feb. 5 meeting. An agreement signed last week by the county and GeorgiaCarry.org
prohibits enforcement of the ordinance until its formal repeal next month.GeorgiaCarry.org
has been singularly successful in its efforts, and already has prompted a number of jurisdictions to drop ordinances in conflict with the state law. A recent Coweta County Superior Court ruling against GeorgiaCarry.org
provided Athens-Clarke officials with some hope the local ordinance might be successfully defended, but a subsequent Georgia Court of Appeals ruling that struck down the Coweta County ordinance has, in the words of Athens-Clarke County Attorney Bill Berryman "resolved that question," making it clear that the state law pre-empting local laws on gun possession "is the law of the land."
Clearly, in light of the appeals court ruling, defending the Athens-Clarke ordinance would have been an empty gesture, a potentially costly and ultimately futile attempt to defend what was, in essence, a community value against an unambiguous provision of state law.
Obviously, there is some rationale for the state law. Gun owners who are licensed by the state shouldn't necessarily be held responsible for keeping abreast of, and complying with, a hodgepodge of local regulations under which an activity that is perfectly legal in one location may be illegal just a few miles down the road. As GeorgiaCarry.org
President Ed Stone told this newspaper for a Friday story on the Athens-Clarke government's decision not to defend the ordinance banning guns from public parks, "We always thought it was an untenable position to have gun owners research laws in every single place."
Yet, while GeorgiaCarry.org
is clearly and unapologetically focused on firearms laws, as it has every right to be, it's nonetheless interesting to note that its Web site contains not the first reference to training in the safe use of firearms.
Maybe the group's presumption is that people who are interested enough in weapons to obtain a firearms license also are going to be motivated to get training in the use of firearms. Nonetheless, it would be a bit easier to accept GeorgiaCarry.org
's efforts to bring local governments into compliance with state law if the organization was as committed to communicating the responsibility associated with carrying a firearm as it is with asserting the right to carry one.
Published in the Athens Banner-Herald on 010708