Georgia's New Pro-Gun Law Triggers Confusion For Some Residents Starting July 1, the state's licensed gun owners will be able to carry their firearms into some schools, bars, churches and libraries. But there's uncertainty over how, exactly, the new law will work.


Georgia's New Pro-Gun Law Triggers Confusion For Some Residents

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Come July 1, Georgians with gun permits will have many more places to take their weapons. That's when the Safe Carry Protection Act goes into effect. It's considered the most sweeping pro-gun measure passed in states this year. Opponents call it the Guns Everywhere Bill. But as Susan Capelouto reports, so far it's created confusion everywhere.

SUSAN CAPELOUTO, BYLINE: Georgia's new gun law has already been fodder for comedians like Stephen Colbert.


STEPHEN COLBERT: With this law, Georgians be able to bring their guns to schools, bars, churches and libraries - of course, there, you will want to use a silencer.

CAPELOUTO: The law is not so funny for many Georgians who are trying to figure out what it means for them. For one, the laws says that licensed gun owners can carry their weapons into bars and churches, if the bar owner or Church Council allows them in. School personnel can have weapons if the school board approves. Then - and this is the really confusing part - the law says gun owners can carry a weapon into unsecured government buildings, such as libraries or city halls, without the approval.

ALISON WEISSINGER: We're going to start. How is everybody this morning?

CAPELOUTO: To figure out what that means, a group of 60 librarians from around Atlanta recently met with the director Alison Weissinger.

WEISSINGER: Joe Patron walks into the Rodin Trottier Library and has a gun on his hip. You, John, can't walk up to him and say, Mr. Patron, do you have a carry permit for that weapon? You can't do that.

CAPELOUTO: Weissinger is explaining how librarians won't be allowed to check to see if a gun owner has a permit. That creates more questions - like this one, from librarian Alanna Maddox.

ALANNA MADDOX: What if someone walks in with their gun and then they just put it on the desk beside their computer? Can we say anything? I mean, there are children running around. Are we not allowed to even say, hey, can you take the gun off the desk and put it on you?

WEISSINGER: That, I don't know.

JOHN MONROE: I mean, they're basically crying chicken little over something that's not that big a deal.

CAPELOUTO: That's John Monroe, a lawyer for Georgia Carry, the gun rights organization that backed the new law. He says gun permit holders should be treated like drivers, who can't be stopped by police who just want to check their driver's license without reason.

MONROE: Local authorities are blowing this detained for a license thing way out of proportion. It's already a violation of the Constitution to stop somebody just to see if they have a license.

CAPELOUTO: City employees will also have to decide whether to hire an armed security guard for an unsecured government building, like a city hall, or just allow guns inside - a much cheaper option.


RUSI PATEL: GMA is proud to present part one of this webinar "Weapons In Georgia Cities".

CAPELOUTO: The GMA, or Georgia Municipal Association, recently posted this webinar to train workers in more than 500 cities. It was created by Rusi Patel, a GMA lawyer who was getting the same questions over and over again.

PATEL: Most frequent question that we've had, can we just post signs? And the answer to that is simply, no. You can't just post signs to prohibit firearms in a government building.

CAPELOUTO: Patel says if city officials don't know the law, they could be vulnerable to lawsuits. And those lawsuits could come from gun rights activists eager to test the limits of the law, says Steve Anthony. He's a political scientist at Georgia State Univeristy.

STEVE ANTHONY: There will be another group of full who will actually be bird-dogging and going around and making sure that these different areas will be doing what the law says they should be doing.

CAPELOUTO: Which means in the coming months, the courts could be the ones to clarify what the law really means and where gun owners can or can't take their weapons. For NPR News, I'm Susanna Capelouto in Atlanta.

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