Carry on. Georgia Law; Concealed Carry v Open Carry

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Open carry is the right to carry a lawfully owned handgun into a public space and the handgun is visible to the public. Concealed carry is the right to carry a lawfully owned handgun into a public space, yet the handgun is not visible to members of the public.


Under Georgia law if one may lawfully own or possess a weapon they may, with a permit, lawfully carry that weapon, concealed or not, as outlined by GA code § O.C.G.A. 16-11-126, and O.C.G.A. § 16-11-129. Specifically, the law states; “Any person who is not prohibited by law from possessing a handgun or long gun may have or carry any handgun provided that it is enclosed in a case and unloaded.”


This means as long as one may legally own a handgun they may have or carry the handgun, concealed or open, with a permit, as long as it is (1) Enclosed in a case (holster) and (2) not loaded.


The key to understanding the law is understanding lawful possession and the places where lawfully owned weapons, concealed or not, are allowed.


A felony conviction prevents one from owning a weapon and therefore prevents one from applying for a concealed carry weapon (CCW). Therefore, if one has been convicted of a felony and found guilty they may not own or carry a weapon in Georgia, unless that felony has been pardoned.


That may seem straight forward enough, felony conviction means no gun, no gun means no carry. But what about misdemeanors? Pending charges? Or probation? Here the rules are simple, but specific, depending on the status of the case;


  • Violent Misdemeanor If one has a misdemeanor they may qualify for a CCW as long as they have been “free from restraint” for 5 years. “Free from restraint” means no longer incarcerated and finished with probation, then they may apply for a CCW. However, if one has a domestic violence misdemeanor it is a lifetime prohibitor and under federal law one cannot own a weapon and therefore cannot apply for a CCW.


  • Misdemeanor with possession If one has a misdemeanor charge for possession of a controlled substance they many not apply for a CCW unless they have been free from restraint and without supervision for 5 years.


  • Pending Felony Proceedings If one has pending felony charges and they have not been to court and completed the case they may not legally apply for a CCW until the case has been completed and they have been found not guilty, only then may they apply for a CCW.


  • Probation If one is on probation, they may not legally own a handgun or apply for a CCW until probation is complete and they have been free from supervision for 5 years. If probation is for a felony one may not own or carry a handgun, even upon completion.


  • First Offender Act If one has successfully completed the first offender probation they may legally apply for a CCW. Click here to learn the details outlining the Georgia First Offender Act.

Where may you carry your weapon? Under Georgia law, without a permit, one may carry their weapon freely on their property, including their home and car. One may only carry a weapon into the car of another with permission.

Under Georgia law one may carry a handgun into a school transportation area only if it remains in the car.

One may carry their handgun into a state building, not federal, only if that building does not have a security screening check point. This right extends to state buildings only and does not include federal buildings or privately own buildings or dwellings. Here the law is important, a private owner has the absolute right to ask anyone with a gun to leave the premises whether they post a “No guns” allowed sign or not. A private property owner has the absolute right to alert the authorities about a gun owner on their property even if the gun owner may lawfully carry.

There is a lot of misconception about where handguns are allowed. Certain places allow CCW but with exceptions or limitations. If one wants to carry a handgun onto a college campus it is best to check with the campus first because while state law may allow general carry, campus rules may prevent CCW or limit it to very specific places.

One generally may not carry a handgun into a;

  • School safety zone, including buildings and school property, however entering a school parking lot or transportation area with a handgun in one’s car is lawful.
  • College sporting event, classroom, Dorm, fraternity house, or day care.
  • Church, unless the church allows
  • State mental institution
  • State polling location, or
  • Courthouse

When in doubt about CCW and previous convictions or If your right to carry has been unjustly obstructed by law enforcement or a government agent consult a lawyer immediately.

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