Tammy Overstreet at the Polk County Crime Examiner is reporting that the Rockmart police arrested Phillip Lee Woods at a local pizzeria and charged him with carrying a deadly weapon at a public gathering. Unfortunately for the arresting officer, this is a crime that has not existed in this state for at least two years.
SB 308, passed in 2010, repealed Georgia’s 140 year old public gathering law, which was created in 1870 by Democrats who wanted to disarm Republicans whenever they gathered. The locations listed under the public gathering law included any establishment at which alcoholic beverages are sold for consumption on the premises. This part of the law was removed by HB 89 in 2008 and replaced with a provision that barred carrying a firearm in restaurants that served alcohol only if the patron was consuming alcoholic beverages while carrying. When the predicted bloodshed failed to materialize after two years, Georgia’s General Assembly did away with the restriction on restaurants altogether in 2010 and repealed the public gathering law.
What this means is that it has not been illegal to carry a firearm in restaurants that serve alcohol for at least four years, and it has not been illegal even while drinking for more than two years.
The Polk County Firearms Examiner adds this tidbit, which may have influenced the police officer’s decision to make the arrest:
According to [Rockmart Police] Chief Sorrells, Woods had a concealed carry permit, however; being inside an establishment that serves alcohol is a violation of his carry permit.
The license in Mr. Woods’ possession stated as part of Georgia Code 16-11-127; for the purpose of this code section, “public gathering” shall include , but shall not be limited to, athletic or sporting events, churches or church functions, political rallies or functions, publicly owned or operated buildings, or establishments at which alcoholic beverages are sold for consumption on the premises. The license was issued before Jan. 1, 2012.
Those of you who have firearms licenses will perhaps notice that older versions were required by law to have this language printed on the back. The licenses are issued for five years and there are doubtless many floating around with the old law printed on them, even though the law is no longer applicable. In sum, there is no “violation of his carry permit” involved in carrying a firearm in a pizzeria. This is perfectly legal behavior according to Georgia law.
While the local solicitor will no doubt dismiss the public gathering charge, Chief Sorrells ought to update himself and his officers on the Georgia law that they are tasked with enforcing. Neither HB 89 nor SB 308 are recent bills.