AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane, File
The state of Georgia is near and dear to my heart. To be more specific, my heart is very near Georgia. Inside of it, as are the rest of my internal organs. As such, I tend to want to see the needle on gun rights moving toward more liberty.
Since I first started carrying a firearm, it has. Much of that is owed to the great work by GeorgiaCarry.org, who has been at the tip of the spear in pretty much every gun rights fight the state has had. They’ve been tenacious.
They’ve also been smart. They know that when it comes to the battlegrounds, there are two: The General Assembly and the courts. They fight in both.
But it’s the courts where the current fight is, where they seek to clarify a law as to who can restrict gun rights on what kind of property.
When Phillip Evans visited the Atlanta Botanical Garden with his family in October 2014, his holstered handgun was in plain view.
Upon seeing it, a Botanical Garden employee stopped the Gwinnett County resident and told him only law enforcement officers could bring guns on the premises. Evans, who was escorted off the property, later filed a lawsuit asserting his right to carry his handgun on the 30-acre site.
On Wednesday, the Georgia Supreme Court heard arguments in Evans’ case, which has the potential to have a far-reaching impact.
At issue is the interpretation of a law passed in 2014 by the General Assembly. It says that gun owners with valid permits can carry their weapons in every location of the state, with some exceptions. One exception states that “persons in legal control of private property through a lease … shall have the right to exclude or eject a person who is in possession of a weapon or long gun on their private property.”
There is no dispute that the Botanical Garden is a private entity, but it obtained a 50-year lease for its property from the city of Atlanta. The key question before the court is whether the garden’s land is public or private. So far, a Fulton County judge and the Georgia Court of Appeals have ruled that the Botanical Garden can prohibit visitors with firearms because it is a private property.
John Monroe, an attorney for GeorgiaCarry.Org, pointed out in court that the Botanical Garden is public property because the land is owned by the city and as such, the exception doesn’t apply.
Unsurprisingly, the Metro Atlanta Chamber claims that such an interpretation would “threaten havoc.” After all, they argued, there are a lot of places that lease property from governmental entities and they would be barred from blocking guns on that property.
However, for me, that’s a feature, not a bug.
The taxpayers of the state of Georgia, either paying to the state itself or an individual community like Atlanta, paid for that property in the first place. It’s ridiculous that they are barred from exercising a fundamental human right on the same property they paid for, especially since the law specifies “private property” and not private entities in control of public property.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a property rights guy. I’m fine with people who own their property excluding me for pretty much any reason. Well, I’m not fine with it, but I support their right to do so.
But this isn’t private property. Yes, it’s a lease, but that doesn’t make the property theirs. If so, every renter in the state will be able to create whatever requirements they want for their landlords. After all, they have leases too.
It’s my hope that the Georgia Supreme Court recognizes this fact and rules accordingly.