The season for hurricanes has arrived, and if the past few years have shown us anything, it’s that you can never be too prepared for what Mother Nature has in store. With that in mind, we thought it would be a great time to discuss Georgia law during emergencies…
What is the state law on transporting firearms in your vehicle if you have to evacuate for an emergency situation? Are there any laws specific to Georgia regarding emergency situations: tornadoes, earthquakes, fires, or floods?
What The Law Says
Georgia law does not specifically address weapons and evacuation for natural disasters. There is no statute that describes a certain method for carrying firearms during a state of emergency.
However, Georgia law does provide for rules concerning the confiscation or registration of firearms during a declared state of emergency: both the confiscation of lawful firearms and ammunition AND the registration of firearms during a declared state of emergency are prohibited by state law.
Ga. Code Ann. § 38-3-37 specifically prohibits seizures of firearms or ammunition by any state authorities in a time of emergency, as well as any requirements in the state for registration of firearms.
The law clearly states:
“No official or employee of the state or any political subdivision thereof, member of the National Guard in the service of the state, or any person operating pursuant to or under color of state law, while acting during or pursuant to a declared state of emergency, shall:
- Temporarily or permanently seize, or authorize the seizure of, any firearm or ammunition or any component thereof the possession of which was not prohibited by law at the time immediately prior to the declaration of a state of emergency, other than as provided by the criminal or forfeiture laws of this state;
- Prohibit possession of any firearm or ammunition or any component thereof or promulgate any rule, regulation, or order prohibiting possession of any firearm or ammunition or any component thereof if such possession was not otherwise prohibited by law at the time immediately prior to the declaration of a state of emergency;
- Prohibit any license holder from carrying any weapon or promulgate any rule, regulation, or order prohibiting such carrying if such carrying was not otherwise prohibited by law at the time immediately prior to the declaration of a state of emergency; or
- Require the registration of any firearm.”
The language of this 2014 state law very closely follows the language of the Federal Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act of 2006, which amended federal law to protect American citizens from firearms and ammunition confiscation, prohibition, and registration by the federal government. This law can be found at 42 USC 5207 and is known as the Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.
The Good News
The good news? Both Georgia AND the federal government have laws restricting confiscation of firearms during states of emergency. So, if you find yourself in the midst of a natural disaster, keep your head, protect yourself and your family, and if you must evacuate, rest assured you can do so lawfully with your firearms by following the same Georgia laws that apply to firearm carry the rest of the time.
If you are eligible to possess a handgun, you may do so in Georgia without a Weapons Carry License in your vehicle and in your habitation, which will include hotel rooms when you stop to rest. With a valid Weapons Carry License, you may carry openly or concealed in most public and private locations, keeping in mind courthouses, jails, mental health facilities, and schools, among other places, are the most frequent off-limits locations you will encounter.
So, Where Can You Carry?
The grocery store; restaurant; a hotel; a movie theater; a hospital (so long as it is not considered a “school”). Keep in mind that, because these are private locations, the owner or “person in legal control” can exclude you or eject you. If the manager or individual in charge of security asks you to leave, you must do so. But remember, there is no law in Georgia that requires the posting of “No Firearms Allowed” signs nor that makes it a crime to enter a location simply because such a sign is posted.
For questions on what to do in the event of a natural disaster and state of emergency, contact U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney today.
ALERT: Make sure to check all state and local laws and reach out to your Independent Program Attorney as you prepare for emergency situations. Click here for the latest webinar discussion regarding travel restrictions during a pandemic with Sam Malone, featuring Independent Program Attorneys David Katz, James Reeves, Emily Taylor, and Richard Hayes.
The preceding should not be construed as legal advice nor the creation of an attorney-client relationship. This is not an endorsement or solicitation for any service. Your situation may be different, so please contact your attorney regarding your specific circumstances. Because the laws, judges, juries, and prosecutors vary from location to location, similar or even identical facts and circumstances to those described in this presentation may result in significantly different legal outcomes. This presentation is by no means a guarantee or promise of any particular legal outcome, positive, negative, or otherwise.