Historically, Georgia has been known as a gun-friendly state, usually earning failing scores from groups that advocate for tougher laws.
Because of the state’s laws, Georgia has been a key source for guns shipped up I-95, known as the “iron pipeline,” to more restrictive states in the Northeast.
Georgia added to its reputation for welcoming guns when the General Assembly approved a law that significantly expanded the number of places where firearms could be carried in 2017.
There are now 1 million people permitted to carry handguns in Georgia.
Here is a look at the laws that govern gun sales and use in Georgia:
Federal law, which Georgia follows
- Suppressors, or silencers, for handguns and rifles must be registered with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
- Individual ownership of automatic weapons is allowed for guns that were manufactured prior to 1986, but not newer models. All automatic weapons must be registered with the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
- A carry permit or a gun purchase requires a federal background check with three possible outcomes: approve, deny or delay. If the response is to delay the purchase, the sale can go through or the permit will be issued if there is no response from federal authorities within three days.
- Those prohibited by federal law from buying guns include felons, anyone involuntarily committed for mental health treatment, anyone convicted of domestic violence, anyone subject to a temporary restraining order and anyone with a pending felony indictment.
- Under Georgia law, a buyer must be 21 to get a handgun carry permit with one exception: anyone who is at least 18 and has been honorably discharged from the military.
- Training on the safe handling of guns is not required to obtain a carry permit.
- Gun registration is not required, though the law requires a permit to carry a handgun whether it be concealed or in the open. A handgun can be carried as an unloaded gun inside a case without a carry permit.
- Carry permits are issued by probate judges in each of Georgia’s 159 counties and it is in their offices that records are maintained. The law prohibits a central repository, and it is illegal to release to the public any gun permit information.
- A federal background check or a valid carry permit is required to buy a handgun from a licensed firearms dealer in Georgia.
- A permit is not required to carry “long guns” like shotguns or semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 used in the Florida school shooting. Unlike handguns, there is no minimum age to carry a long gun.
- No background check is required for gun sales between individuals. The so-called “gun show exemption” applies only if the sale is between individuals. Even at gun shows, a licensed dealer must do a background check if the buyer doesn’t have a permit.
- Georgia has a “stand your ground” law that says a shooting is lawful if an individual fears for their own safety or the safety of others.
- In 2017 Georgia passed a law allowing firearms to be carried in certain locations on public college campuses. And according to the law revised in 2014, guns are only prohibited in jails, prisons, nuclear power plants, courthouses and government buildings that station a law enforcement officer at outside doors to screen those entering. Under the expanded gun carrying law, guns are now permitted in state and local parks, inside bars unless prohibited, in churches that specifically approve them and at public schools while picking up or dropping off a student. A gun can be carried inside an airport up to the security check points manned by Transportation Safety Administration officers.
- Georgia will honor carry permits of visitors from 32 states, including Florida, that in turn honor gun permits from Georgia.