A lawyer for the Atlanta Botanical Garden on Monday asked Georgia's highest court to reject a lawsuit that contends the garden cannot order people carrying guns to leave the property even if they have valid licenses to carry weapons.
The suit was brought by GeorgiaCarry.org after one of its members, who was
carrying a firearm in a waistband holster, was escorted off the grounds. The individual, Phillip Evans, claimed when he bought his family’s one-year membership at the garden, he was also openly displaying his weapon and no member of the garden’s staff objected.
After Evans was escorted off the grounds in October 2014, the garden’s CEO contacted him and said only police officers were permitted to have weapons at the gardens. Evans is also a plaintiff in the litigation, which, if successful, could have far-reaching implications.
Michael Brown, a lawyer for the Botanical Garden, told the Georgia Supreme Court athat Evans and GeorgiaCarry are bringing their suit at the wrong time and in an improper fashion. If someone wants to challenge the way the law is being applied, that person should come to the garden armed with a weapon, be arrested for refusing to leave when asked to do so and then raise it when defending the criminal case, Brown said.
GeorgiaCarry’s lawyer, John Monroe, urged the justices to rule in his organization’s
favor. State law only allows private property owners to dictate whether people carrying firearms can be prohibited from entering the grounds, he said.
Because the Botanical Garden leases its land from the city of Atlanta, it is therefore public property and the private property exception does not apply, he said. If you want to be able to be able to eject someone who is carrying a firearm from a property, lease the property from a private entity, not a public one, he said.
Brown disagreed. He told the justices that a decision the court issued in 1963 involving Delta Airlines said just the opposite – that public property, when leased to a private entity, is considered to be private property. Otherwise, Brown argued, people can carry weapons into sports arenas or hotels located on public land leased to private entities without fear of being told to leave.