Lawsuits show Georgia's "shall issue" carry law isn't as"shall" as you might think

AP Photo/ Rick Bowmer

As the Georgia legislature debates making a carry license optional for legal gun owners, opponents of Constitutional Carry say there’s no reason to fix a “shall issue” system that isn’t broken. But as one Georgia news outlet has discovered, “shall issue” in Georgia isn’t so “shall” after all.

WTOC-TV in Savannah recently reported that taxpayers in Chatham County, Georgia are on the hook for nearly $100,000 in legal fees stemming from several court cases challenging the denials of carry applications on the part of a local probate judge. Tom Bordeaux has been named in several suits, including one filed by a relatively recent resident of the county. Greg Hise said it took him 15 months and a lot of billable hours on the part of his attorney before he received his license.

As he explained, the issue began in 2018 shortly after he and his wife retired to Savannah from Virginia where he already had the license. He applied for one in Georgia and was denied about a week later.

He later found out why: an assault charge on his record from the 1970s.

“I got it straightened out with Virginia in one week, so I thought I’ll just go down there and straighten it out, but it didn’t happen like that,” Hise said.

He hired gun rights attorney John Monroe.

“It ended up being well over a year after the writ of mandamus was issued before Judge Bordeaux gave Mr. Hise a license,” Monroe said.

Monroe has not only represented Hise, but two other individuals who have sued Judge Bordeaux over claims of being wrongfully denied.

Records of legal bills paid for by Chatham County show taxpayers not only paid outside attorneys to defend the judge in those lawsuits, but they also paid about $68,000 in Monroe’s legal fees after he won the lawsuits.

Now, I can understand why the judge may have initially rejected Hise’s application, but given that it was apparently an easy enough fix for Virginia officials to figure out, the fact that it took over a year for Hise’s application to finally be approved is a sign that the current system has some genuine issues.

I’ll be the first to agree that a “shall issue” system is much better than a “may issue” process that allows the issuing authorities to deny someone a license for not having a good enough reason to exercise their right to bear arms in self-defense. They’re much less prone to abuse, including the bribery and graft that seems to be an inherent part of the permitting process in many may issue jurisdictions. And thankfully, Georgia’s current carry laws do allow for an appeals process and a way to challenge incorrect denials. But while that appeal is taking place, individual rights are still being violated. There’s a better way; recognize the right of the people to both keep and bear arms without a government permission slip.

The passage of Senate Bill 319 would ensure that those rights remain intact by removing the licensing requirement for legal gun owners. As it is, Georgians can already carry openly without a license, but can face jail time and fines if they carry their legally-owned pistol concealed without a valid CHL. Constitutional Carry would be a huge step in the right direction for the state, and may well end up saving taxpayers some money in addition to safeguarding their Second Amendment rights.