The nation’s largest gathering of gun enthusiasts opened its annual convention Friday in Houston, three days and nearly 300 miles away from the Texas scene of one of the nation’s deadliest mass school shootings ever.
The National Rifle Association is starting its convention at the close of one of the country’s bloodiest months in recent memory, with horrific shootings at a Buffalo, N.Y. grocery store, a Santa Ana, Calif. church, and an elementary school in Uvalde, Tex., that combined claimed 32 lives and left more than two dozen injured.
The carnage has sparked a new round of debate over one of American democracy’s most controversial freedoms: the Second Amendment. It’s provoked a massive groundswell of outrage from people–regardless of political affiliation or gun ownership–who want better forms of gun control.
Yet, after the Uvalde shootings, Congress is floundering about what –-if anything –- to do to address a public health crisis unique to America: mass shootings.
In response, Atlanta Civic Circle has undertaken this look at gun laws in Georgia, where nearly half of all adults live in a home with a gun–and a young person can’t legally drink until they’re 21, but can possess a gun at 18.
Georgia has some of the weakest gun laws in the country, ranking 36th nationally, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, an anti-gun-violence nonprofit.
And the state’s gun laws have been getting steadily weaker. Georgia lawmakers passed a law in 2017 requiring colleges and universities to allow guns on campus. In April, Gov. Brian Kemp signed a law that allows gun owners to carry concealed handguns in public without a state license.
GEORGIA GUN LAWS
Age when you can legally possess a handgun: 18
Age when you can legally buy a gun: 21 (18, if you’re in the military or honorably discharged)
Age when you can legally possess a rifle or shotgun: No minimum age.
Firearms that are illegal to possess in Georgia: Bazooka, machine gun, sawed-off shotgun or rifle, rocket launcher.
HOW MANY GEORGIANS OWN GUNS?
Georgia adults who live in a home with a gun: 49.2%
Georgia’s national ranking in gun ownership: 6th
Gun licenses in Georgia in 2021: 304,124
Guns registered with a law enforcement agency in Georgia: 190,050
Region with the largest number of gun owners: the South
WHAT KIND OF GUN LAWS DO WE HAVE?
Are there any restrictions on assault weapons?
No. Georgia neither regulates nor prohibits the sale or possession of assault weapons.
Or any kind of ban on large-capacity magazines?
No. Georgia also doesn’t regulate or prohibit the sale or possession of large-capacity magazines.
Do you need to undergo a background check to buy a gun in Georgia?
Does Georgia have any law regulating gun sales at gun shows?
No. In fact, Georgia explicitly bans any county or city from regulating gun shows in any way, according to Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. That means anyone of any age can buy a gun at a gun show.
Does Georgia require a waiting period to buy a gun? No.
Licensing laws are to ensure that someone passes a background check before buying a gun. They require you to apply for a gun license in person at a law enforcement agency, as an extra safeguard against fraud or errors that could allow dangerous people to get guns.
What about to carry a concealed weapon? No.
Do you have to register your gun with local law enforcement in Georgia?
No. In fact, state law prohibits firearm registries.
Is there any federal requirement to register a gun with a law enforcement agency?
No. There is no national gun registry. In fact, federal law prohibits using the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to create any registry of guns or gun owners.
Does Georgia have a law banning guns in secondary schools from K-12?
No. School personnel are allowed to carry guns.
Does Georgia have a “red flag” law?
No. While 19 states and the District of Columbia have some form of red flag laws that allow law enforcement officers to confiscate firearms from people that a court has deemed dangerous, Georgia does not.
Does Georgia have a law prohibiting domestic violence offenders from having a gun?
No. The state does not automatically prohibit either domestic abusers or stalkers with a “no contact” protective order against them from having a gun. However, when petitioning a judge for a protective order, you can ask them to restrict the abuser from having or buying guns.
Are guns allowed on Georgia college campuses? Yes.
Does Georgia have a “stand your ground” law?
Yes. Georgia is one of 30 states with a law saying you don’t have a duty to retreat from an attacker and you can legally use violent or deadly force against them, as long as you are in a place you have a legal right to be.
Does Georgia have a secure gun storage law?
No. Nationally, 23 states have laws requiring people to keep their guns locked up to prevent children from getting hold of them. Georgia, however, is not one of them. The strongest laws penalize any failure to secure a gun while weaker laws impose penalties only if a child actually gets to a gun.
HERE ARE SOME COMMON-SENSE GUN LAWS IN OTHER STATES:
Gun owners in San Jose, Calif. must carry liability insurance under an innovative law passed by city officials a couple of months ago. It works like auto insurance, offering lower premiums for responsible gun owners to encourage safe behavior.
Mandatory gun safety class:
If you want a license to carry a gun in California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington, you’ll have to complete a safety training course first.
Mandatory gun registration and licensing:
States with registration and licensing systems, like California and Connecticut, report fewer guns sold within the state are used in crimes, according to this 2001 study. When Connecticut passed its licensing law, the gun homicide rate fell by 28% and the gun suicide rate fell by 33%.
ADDITIONAL SOURCES AND RESOURCES
- Here are Georgia’s gun laws, summarized by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
- Everytown for Gun Safety
- Georgia Attorney General’s Office on gun licensing reciprocity
- Georgia Coalition for Safe Communities
- Georgia weapons carry license to carry a gun out of state.
- Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence
- Gun Ownership by State
- Gun registration requirements by state from Ballotpedia
- National Rifle Association