Restaurants, Guns, and Alcohol in Georgia: Take Your Money Where You Can Protect Yourself

You may have watched the Guns in Georgia Bars and Restaurants video and had additional questions about how the state regulates the carry of firearms into establishments that sell alcohol. To learn more on the topic so you can stay legal while you carry, check out this excerpt from Georgia Gun Law, Armed And Educated:

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What is the rule on carry on private property?

As we know, a WCL holder or individual granted reciprocity is authorized to carry “in every location in this state” so long as carry is not specifically prohibited through state or federal law. This is how Georgia chooses to recognize and honor the Second Amendment rights of its citizens, and this recognition extends to private property: with a Weapons Carry License, an individual may lawfully carry either openly or concealed on the private property of another person.

The General Assembly must, however, balance the Second Amendment rights of an individual lawfully carrying a firearm with the rights of a property owner to freely associate with whom they wish, and also to restrict access to their property in a manner of their choosing. Accordingly, Georgia legislators have struck a balance between the rights of an individual carrying a firearm onto private property and the rights of the property owner: while a WCL holder or individual granted reciprocity may carry onto private property, private property owners or persons in legal control of private property through a lease, rental agreement, licensing agreement, contract, or any other agreement to control access to such private property shall have the right to exclude or eject a person who is in possession of a weapon or long gun on their private property…. O.C.G.A. §16-11-127(c)

This means the owner of the property; the lessee; the manager (of a restaurant, for instance); or security hired by the owner or management can restrict a lawful WCL holder from entering the owner’s property with a weapon (“exclude”), or can remove a WCL holder carrying a weapon from the property (“eject”).

Is a “No Weapons” sign enough to keep me out of a business?

The legal issues created with the notice requirement in Georgia law lead to interesting factual questions, usually centered around signs: is it enough for a business to post a sign that simply says “No Weapons Allowed”? Can that keep a WCL holder out of the business with a firearm? As is the case with most questions in the law, two lawyers may give two completely different answers, but it is the authors’ opinion that signage is not enough to restrict a WCL holder from entering a building with a weapon.

This opinion is based on the statute itself: the Code section authorizing private property owners to exclude Weapons Carry License holders only allows them to do so in accordance with the procedures found in O.C.G.A. 16-7-21(b)(3), the criminal trespass statute. The statute makes it a crime when an individual “knowingly and without authority… [r]emains upon the land or premises of another person… after receiving notice from the owner, rightful occupant, or, upon proper identification, an authorized representative of the owner or rightful occupant to depart.” O.C.G.A. §16-7-21(b)(3). The criminal trespass statute requires the notice actually be given by the owner, rightful occupant, or authorized representative, to the individual. There is nothing in the statute or case law that contemplates a posted sign to be sufficient notice from the proper party that entry to any specific individual is prohibited; on the contrary, cases in Georgia have specifically found notice to be an essential element of the crime of criminal trespass, and that the notice not to enter the premises must be given to the accused by the owner, rightful occupant, or by an authorized representative of the owner or rightful occupant. Sheehan v. State, 314 Ga. App. 325 (2012)(see also Jackson v. State, 242 Ga. App. 113 (2000)).

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To learn more Georgia gun law, get the authoritative resource: Georgia Gun Law, Armed And Educated. Click here to order. Or attend a Gun Law Seminar. Click here to find a location and time convenient for you

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