Like all states, Georgia has a variety of laws that govern the possession, use, and ownership of firearms and other weapons. Compared to some other states, Georgia has fewer restrictions on gun ownership and use. For information on gun laws in other states, see Gun Possession and Use Laws.
In Georgia, adults do not need a permit to buy a gun. (To learn more, see Gun Permit Laws in Georgia.) However, under Georgia law, a person needs a permit to carry a weapon openly or to carry a gun concealed on (or near) the body. (For more information, see Open and Concealed Gun Carry Laws in Georgia.) Without a carry license, Georgia gun owners cannot take handguns out into the community, but can possess guns on their own property, and inside their homes, motor vehicles, and places of business. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-126.) So, adults in Georgia (who are not otherwise prohibited from possessing a gun) do not need permits to buy or possess handguns that they keep in their homes for protection.
Pointing a gun at another person without legal justification is a crime in Georgia. In order to convict, the prosecutor does not need to show that the defendant intended to fire the gun, just that he or she intentionally pointed the gun at another person. For example, if a person points a gun at the postman because he is late picking up the mail, that is a crime, even if the person does not intend to shoot the worker, or even fire the gun, but just wants to scare him. However, under Georgia law, a person would be justified in pointing a gun at a trespasser in the person’s home without permission, and doing so is not a crime. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-102.) Georgia also has laws prohibiting firing guns on public roads or highways, on other people’s property without permission, and while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. (Ga. Code Ann. § § 16-11-103, 16-11-104, 16-11-134.)
The Georgia Firearms and Weapons Act prohibits the possession of certain types of firearms and dangerous weapons, including:
There are exceptions for law enforcement officers, correctional officers, nuclear power plant security officers, and military personnel in the line of the duty. Otherwise prohibited weapons that are inoperable (and cannot easily be made operable) are also exempted. (Ga. Code Ann. § § 16-11-123, 16-11-124.) So, an inoperable hand grenade that is part of a history exhibit would be permitted. (You can learn more about the legality of hand grenades in the article, Is It Legal to Own Hand Grenades?)
It is illegal for any minor (a person under the age of 18) to possess a handgun in Georgia. There are some exceptions for hunting and fishing, and sport and target shooting. A child who is on property belonging to his or her parents or grandparents can also possess a handgun there with the parents' permission. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-132.) So, a child who is given a handgun to keep on the family farm with permission is not breaking the law. It is a crime for any person, except a parent or guardian, to furnish weapons to a child under the age of 18. (Ga. Code Ann. § § 16-11-101, 16-11-101.1.)
It is also a crime in Georgia to have a gun in a “school safety zone,” including a school building, at a school function, such as a high school basketball game, or on any school property, such as a football field or a school bus. The crime is punished more severely if the defendant does not have a license to carry the weapon. But, schools can authorize their security officers to carry firearms and armed police officers can also provide school security. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-127.1.)
Georgia law prohibits the possession of a gun or a knife during the commission of a felony. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-106.) For example, a person who wields a gun during a sexual assault could be convicted of possession of a weapon during a felony, as well as the underlying sexual assault.
It is also a crime for a convicted felon (whether convicted in Georgia, in another state, or in federal court) to possess, receive or transport a firearm, unless they have been pardoned and the pardon expressly allows firearm possession. (Pardon procedures and rules are explained on the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles.)(Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-131.)
Pointing a gun at another and discharging a gun on a public road or on another person’s property are misdemeanors, punishable by up to 12 months in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. Discharging a gun under the influence is a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature, punishable by up to 12 months in jail, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. For more information on sentencing in Georgia, see Georgia Felony Crimes by Class and Sentences and Georgia Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences.
Possessing a prohibited weapon can result in a prison term of up to five years. Possession of a handgun by a minor is a misdemeanor. Subsequent convictions are punished more severely. Furnishing weapons to a child is a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature. Having a gun in a school safety zone is a misdemeanor if the person has a license to carry a gun and a felony punishable by two to ten years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both, if the defendant does not have a license or possesses a machine gun.
Possession of a weapon during the commission of a felony is punishable by up to five years in prison. The prison term must be served consecutively to any prison term for the underlying felony. Being a felon in possession of a firearm is punishable by one to five years in prison.
If you are charged with any crime as a result of your possession or use of a firearm or other weapon, you should contact a Georgia criminal defense attorney. An attorney can tell you what to expect in court and how to protect your rights to that you can obtain the best possible outcome in your case.