Photo Credit: By Andre m (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The 2015 Legislative Session was a busy one in Georgia, and a mixed bag for firearms legislation. A number of new firearms laws went into effect that expanded and limited Georgians’ right to bear arms. Here are a few of the firearms laws that recently went into effect in the Peach State:
HB 492 – Effective July 1, 2015
Perhaps the most significant bill passed and signed by the Governor this legislative session was HB 492. A number of the firearms law changes enacted by this bill were beneficial to gun owners. Georgia WCL holders can now carry concealed into government buildings and at polling places when an election or polling is not going on. The legislature also made things a little easier for WCL holders looking to renew their licenses by eliminating the requirement that they get another set of fingerprints taken, allowing the use of their original fingerprints submitted when they first got their WCL. Also, a WCL renewal application will be considered 90 days or earlier from the date of expiration, all the way until the 30th day after it expires.
Employers may no longer condition employment (such as fire an employee) for carrying ammunition in a locked trunk, glove box, or other enclosed compartment in their private motor vehicle if the employee has a WCL. The State’s firearms preemption statute – 16-11-173 – has been made more powerful for Georgia gun owners, making it illegal for a county or municipality to regulate firearms, firearms dealers, gun shows and more by “any other means.” Further, political subdivisions and school districts are added to the list of organizations that may not regulate firearms. However, a county or municipal government may now regulate the transport, carrying, or possession of firearms by unpaid volunteers working for them during the course of their volunteering.
Lastly, judges are now required to be more transparent in regards to WCLs. A probate judge must report a revoked license to the Georgia Crime Information Center within ten days of revocation. Any State or Superior Court judge who convicts an individual for a crime or decides a matter which might make holding a WCL illegal, must inquire whether that person has a WCL. If they do possess a WCL, the judge must notify the probate judge who issued the license in order to get it revoked.
HB 475 – Effective July 1, 2015
In an effort to control the wild hog population in Georgia, HB 475 was passed, implementing the “Feral Hog Control Act.” This act gives the Georgia Department of Agriculture authority to issue five year permits to transport or keep live feral hogs, as well as wildlife control permits that give hunters expanded rights in regards to feral hogs. Under the new law, transporting feral hogs without a permit is now a crime, unless done for the purpose of slaughter. Conviction of illegally transporting live feral hogs is a high and aggravated misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,500.
A wildlife control permit for feral hogs authorizes the hunting and trapping of feral hogs in conditions not previously allowed, such as: at night with a light (except during deer season), from a vehicle, or by a GA resident without a hunting or trapping license in extended circumstances. Firearms restrictions for taking feral hogs with or without a permit have been removed, allowing for the use of previously prohibited weapons.
Essentially, HB 233 changed statewide forfeiture procedures of firearms used in crimes. Any firearm used in the commission of a crime involving the illegal possession or carrying of the firearm must be turned over to law enforcement as before. However, law enforcement now has a year to return or sell the weapon. If the firearm is subject to forfeiture, a state attorney seeking forfeiture must start forfeiture proceedings within 60 days of a final judgment. To get a firearm back after it has been seized, the owner must make an application to the law enforcement entity, provide proof of ownership, and present ID. If the firearm was used as evidence in a criminal trial or abandoned, and is certified unsafe, it will be transferred to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, a local law enforcement forensic lab, or be destroyed. Otherwise, it may be sold or transferred to those places. The state and any political subdivision of the state are not liable for injuries or damage resulting from the sale of such firearm.
As you can see, this legislative session resulted in a number of bills that expanded the rights of Georgia gun owners. If you have any questions about how these changes in the law may affect you, call us and one of our Independent Program Attorneys will be happy to point you in the right direction.