Georgia requires a license for carrying handguns in public. The state also has other laws restricting the possession, carrying, and use of guns and other weapons (except for law enforcement and other authorized individuals). Read on for details.
In Georgia, it’s illegal to carry a handgun or long knife (with a blade longer than 12 inches), either openly or concealed on your body, unless you have a carry license. It’s also a crime to carry a concealed, loaded long gun without a license. There are exceptions to the license requirement, including:
A first violation of the license requirement is a misdemeanor, but subsequent convictions are felonies. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-126 (2019).)
Penalties for Misdemeanors and Felonies in Georgia
Even if you have a carry license, Georgia forbids carrying guns, stun guns or Tasers, switchblades, clubs, and other weapons on school property (including school buses) and at school functions, unless the weapon is in a locked container in a vehicle. The ban also applies to colleges and universities, except that:
Guns and long knives are also prohibited in:
All of these prohibitions make exceptions for certain authorized personnel. Violations are generally misdemeanors, except for carrying a weapon at a school without a license (a felony) or in a place of worship (which carries a fine of up to $100). (Ga. Stat. §§ 16-11-127, 16-11-127.1 (2019).)
It’s a felony in Georgia to possess a gun or Taser if you’ve been convicted of a felony (or certain juvenile offenses), unless you’ve received a pardon that explicitly allows you to have a firearm. The punishment varies, depending on the nature of your previous conviction.
The state also prohibits minors (under age 18) from having a handgun, unless they qualify for one of the exceptions, including when they:
Violations are punished as misdemeanors for first offenses or as felonies for subsequent convictions. Anyone who furnishes a handgun to a minor can be charged with a felony; parents are exempt, but only if they know the child will use the weapon for one of the legal purposes described above. (Ga. Stat. §§ 16-11-101.1, 16-11-131, 16-11-132 (2019).)
Illegal Possession of Guns Under Federal Law
In addition to Georgia’s restrictions on gun possession by felons and minors, federal law prohibits certain other people from having guns, including illegal drug users and those who have been convicted of a domestic violence crime or are currently subject to a domestic violence restraining order (18 U.S.C. § 922(g) (2019)).
Georgia bans certain types of operable weapons, including:
Violations are punishable by five years in prison. (Ga. Code §§ 16-11-122, 16-11-123, 16-11-124 (2019).)
Various laws in Georgia also address the illegal use of weapons. For instance, if you have a gun (including a stun gun or Taser) or a knife (with a blade that’s at least three inches long) while committing or trying to commit certain crimes, you can be charged with a separate felony in addition to the underlying crime. The punishment is stiffer if you were previously convicted of certain other crimes, including any felony involving the use or possession of a gun.
It’s a misdemeanor in Georgia to:
Generally, self-defense is a justification for these point-or-fire offenses. (Ga. Code §§ 16-11-102, 16-11-103, 16-11-104, 16-11-133, 16-11-134 (2019).)
If you are charged with a crime related to possession or use of a weapon, you should speak to a lawyer as soon as you can. An experienced criminal defense attorney can explain how the law applies to your situation, what to expect in the legal proceedings, and how to protect your rights.
Changes in the Law
States can change their laws at any time. You can use this search tool to find and read the current Georgia codes discussed in this article. Court decisions may also affect how laws are interpreted and applied—another good reason to speak to a lawyer if you're concerned about actual or potential weapons charges.