Georgia is a “shall issue” Weapons Carry License state. So long as you qualify for a Weapons Carry License, the law requires the probate court judge of the county you reside in to issue a Weapons Carry License to you. But what happens when the court denies your petition for a Weapons Carry License?
When you apply for a Weapons Carry License or a renewal license, the probate court of your county of residence must, within five days of your request, direct the proper agency to complete a criminal history check on your record, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, also called a NICS check.
According to statute, if no derogatory information is found, the judge “shall issue” the license. If, however, according to Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129,“facts establishing ineligibility have been reported” on any report, or 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 this Code section,” the Weapons Carry License is denied.
This could be a pending felony charge or felony conviction; a drug violation; or a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. Any of these events will result in a denial of a Weapons Carry License application (and generally, possession of a firearm or ammunition).
Just as likely, however, is that the probate court has come upon information it does not understand—an old charge from another state that doesn’t fit exactly within the pattern of Georgia statutes, for instance. Maybe the court found a minor offense improperly recorded, or an order from another jurisdiction the court cannot (for whatever reason) interpret.
Even if such an event would not otherwise mandate a denial, all too often if the court cannot determine what the event is, it will deny the application out of what the judge may feel to be an “abundance of caution.”
Appealing a Denial
In such a situation, the court may allow you time to supplement the record to resolve the discrepancy. The burden will be placed on you to track down long-forgotten information, possibly in another state, to prove you are eligible for a license. This burden-shifting is not directed by the law; this is the court’s method of covering itself and, unfortunately, you may pay the price.
With an outright denial, the law prescribes a process of reconsideration. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(j) sets the process for relief from a license denial, and states as follows:
“When an applicant is otherwise denied a license, temporary renewal license, or renewal license and contends that he or she is qualified to be issued a license, …the applicant may bring an action in mandamus or other legal proceeding in order to obtain such license.”
A writ of mandamus is an order requiring an act be completed; in this case, the writ would require the probate court to issue the license. Additionally, the applicant may request a hearing before the judge of the probate court, relative to the applicant’s fitness to be issued such license (usually where you want to start: requesting a hearing before the judge who denied your application).
Upon the issuance of a denial, the judge of the probate court shall inform the applicant of his or her rights pursuant to this subsection. Here’s where it gets interesting:
“If such applicant is the prevailing party, he or she shall be entitled to recover his or her costs in such action, including reasonable attorney’s fees.”
The application process (and judicial process) behind receiving a Weapons Carry License – even in a “shall issue” state – can be really complicated. Make sure you know the steps, and if a problem arises, an attorney can assist you.
For more information concerning the Weapons Carry License process in Georgia, please call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney today.