Savannah Mayor Delusionally Defiant Over Gun Ordinance

AP Photo/Brittainy Newman, File

We used to not talk about Savannah, Georgia all that much because, well, there was no point. While many people there may well be anti-gun, as we find in most cities of a certain size, there wasn't much they could do about it.


Georgia, you see, is a preemption state. The lone exception is that cities can have ordinances against discharging a firearm inside the city limits. That's it.

Lately, though, Savannah's been a topic of interest. The reason is that the mayor and the city commission have decided to violate state law and pass a gun storage ordinance.

That earned them a rebuke from the attorney general.

It seems, however, that the mayor is unmoved.

On the heels of recent legal and public pushback to Savannah's new gun storage ordinance, Mayor Van Johnson opened his press conference Tuesday morning with a near 13-minute defense of the law he said is aimed at protecting residents.

Two high-profile challenges to the city's landmark ordinance, which was passed unanimously by city council in April, came in quick succession last week. A Wayne County man filed a civil suit against the city on May 1, dubbing the ordinance "void" by state law in what appears to be the ordinance's first legal challenge. Attorney General Chris Carr followed up with the same assessment on May 3 in a courtesy review letter to Savannah's city attorney Bates Lovett.

The ordinance requires firearms left in motor vehicles to be "securely stored" in compartments or in a locked trunk. Johnson, who led the creation of the ordinance, has continued to defend both the law's legality and rationale despite the public pushback. Lawsuits were anticipated and even welcomed, Johnson said.

"It is Savannah's legal opinion that this ordinance strikes the right balance," Johnson said.


And yet, when asked why he didn't have the attorney general's office review it, he noted that they don't get most measures reviews and said, "I think we were pretty certain about what that reaction would be, so we chose not to do it, which was our prerogative."

In other words, he knew it wouldn't pass muster, but pushed through anyway.

Now, I'm generally a fan of the underdog taking on the big power--yes, I'm a fan of the story of David and Goliath--but there's a big difference between the plucky underdog and Savannah.

This isn't pluckiness, this is delusional. The idea that this measure "strikes the right balance" when there is no legal justification for balance in the first place. There's no balance test in Georgia's preemption ordinance that cities can take advantage of. It's pretty cut-and-dried in saying local governments can't create their own gun control laws.

And yes, this is a gun control law.

There may be so many exceptions to it that it'll be virtually impossible for anyone to actually be prosecuted for it, but it's still an attempt to regulate firearm storage, which is illegal under the state's preemption statued.

What Johnson is doing here isn't rational, principled defiance. This is delusional defiance, premised on something that doesn't exist in state law, likely in hopes that the courts will side with him when they've literally never sided with a local government over preemption in the past.


And yes, there have been many attempts--arguably less invasive attempts, it should be noted--to undermine preemption and those cities have all lost.

Savannah will, too.

The only question is how much will Savannah taxpayers be forced to pay out before Johnson gets the message.

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