Fulton judge unlikely to let dad bring guns to children's school events

A Fulton County judge said Tuesday she is unlikely to rule that a Alpharetta father can bring his gun when he attends events at his children’s elementary school, but she would delay ruling until she had done more research on the matter.

Judge Kelly Lee Ellerbe heard James Johnson’s request to allow him to bring his 9 mm Smith and Wesson when he goes to functions at New Prospect Elementary School in Alpharetta, where his 6-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son attend while she considers his lawsuit against the Fulton County school system..

His is one of two lawsuits filed by metro area fathers challenging the state Code Revision Commission’s interpretation of two gun bills passed by the 2014 Legislature and how they interact.

“My inclination is to deny the injunction,” Ellerbe said after the hour-long hearing on the Fulton County suit. “It’s not my final ruling on this case.”

She expected to decide by the end of this week.

Johnson’s lawyer, John Monroe, said the father would suffer “irreparable” harm while the suit is pending because his Second Amendment right would be violated.

Johnson and a second father who filed a similar suit in Gwinnett say they arm themselves in case of confrontation and they wanted to continue to protect themselves and be active in their children’s schools at the same time.

“It’s clearly the overwhelming will of the people,” Monroe said about carrying guns in most places. “It can’t just be thrown away.”

Brandon Moulard, the attorney for the Fulton County school system, said Johnson had not shown he would be damaged if he is restricted to just bringing his gun when when he picks up or drops off his children at school while the suit is pending.

Johnson’s suit raises the same issue that Phillip Evans raised when he also filed a suit in August, saying he wanted to bring a gun when he attends his children’s functions at Centerville Elementary School in Snellville. A third father had sued the Douglas County school system but dropped his case last month when he enrolled his daughter in a private school

The fathers argue that two laws passed this year are in conflict —- House Bill 862 and House Bill 60, which came to be known as the “guns everywhere” law. Even though it restricted guns at schools, it broadened the number of places they were allowed.

HB 862 said licensed gun owners could carry their weapons into a school zone, which includes school property, any time. The bill was passed in February and the law took effect April 21, when the governor signed it.

“The Legislature passed the bill. It has to mean something,” Monroe said in court Tuesday morning.

HB 60, however, said gun owners could only legally have their firearms on school property in their locked cars or when dropping off or picking up a student. That was the law before changes were made this year.

HB 60 also repealed any existing laws that were in conflict, which included HB 862. The governor signed HB 60, limiting firearms at schools, on April 23, two days after he signed the other gun legislation.

Code Revision Commission, which notes at the end of the law now on the books referenced the difference between the two bills approved by the 2014 Legislature. The note said HB 60 “implicitly repealed and superseded” the gun law that took effect in April that allowed guns at schools.

Johnson and Evans said they are confused as to when a licensed gun owner can bring a gun to their children’s schools. They are concerned they could be charged with misdemeanors if they bring firearms to school events.

But Moulard, the attorney for Fulton schools, said the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 2008 decision, “recognized there are certain sensitive settings” where guns cannot be allowed.

“One of those is the school setting,” Moulard said.

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