This is a "layman's" version of the firearm laws of Georgia. The
information contained herein this document SHOULD NOT and CANNOT be
construed as legal advice or as an alternate version of the current law. It
is your own personal responsibility to know the law! The author of this
document Cannot and Will not be responsible for its use in place of the
actual law as legal advice. In short, Use at your own risk!
This document contains understandable versions of the Georgia Firearm Laws
which covers the most referred to laws in the GA criminal code 16-11-120 -
16-11-138. THERE MAYBE OTHER FIREARM LAWS IN THE GEORGIA CODE THAT THIS
DOCUMENT MAY NOT COVER! You have been warned!*NOTE: It is more understandable if
this document is read in its entirety rather than reading and jumping to
different topics, as one law may have an effect on another.
O.C.G.A. 16-11-120 The Georgia firearms and weapons act.
The Georgia Firearms License (GFL) has been changed to be a Georgia Weapons Carry License (WCL/GWL). Current GFL's are now considered WCL's so any mention of one also applies to the other.
Forcible Felony - Any felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any person. (16-1-3 as used anywhere in Chapter 16, except 16-11-131)
Forcible Misdemeanor - Any misdemeanor which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any person. (16-1-3 as used anywhere in Chapter 16)
Public Place - Any place where the conduct involved may reasonably be expected to be viewed by people other than members of the actor's family or household. (16-1-3 as used anywhere in Chapter 16)
The following definitions are only valid when used in 16-11-125.1 through 16-11-137 and certain other code sections
a handgun or a knife (except 16-11-127.1 which has its own definition for weapon). (16-11-125.1)
Weapon - Are defined as
Handgun - A firearm of any description, loaded or unloaded, from which any shot, bullet, or other missile can be discharged by an action of an explosive where the length of the barrel, not including any revolving, detachable, or magazine breech, does not exceed 12 inches; provided, however, that the term 'handgun' shall not include a gun which discharges a single shot of .46 centimeters or less in diameter (since the term "shot" is used instead of "bullet", a pistol that fires .17HMR would be considered a handgun). (16-11-125.1)
Knife - A cutting instrument designed for the purpose of offense and defense consisting of a blade that is greater than five inches in length which is fastened to a handle (designed for offense and defense means that something like a filet knife would not be included). (16-11-125.1)
Long gun - A firearm with a barrel length of at least 18 inches and overall length of at least 26 inches designed or made and intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or made to use the energy of the explosive in a fixed:
(A) Shotgun shell to fire through a smooth bore either a number of ball shot or a single projectile for each single pull of the trigger or from which any shot, bullet, or other missile can be discharged; or
(B) Metallic cartridge to fire only a single projectile through a rifle bore for each single pull of the trigger;
provided, however, that the term 'long gun' shall not include a gun which discharges a single shot of .46 centimeters or less in diameter (since the term "shot" is used instead of "bullet", a rifle that fires .17HMR would be considered a long gun). (16-11-125.1)
The general definition of possession is having control of an object. Possession does not necessarily mean ownership of an object. Since there are different ways to control an object, the legal system has various ways to describe the different situations in which a person has control of an object (active, illegal, legal, criminal, physical, sole, joint, etc). Most of those descriptions boil down to a person having either Actual or Constructive possession. Actual possession is when you are in physical or close contact with an item. If you are carrying a firearm on your person or under the driver's seat of your car, then you have actual possession of a firearm. Constructive possession is when you have the power and intention to later take control of the object not currently in your actual possession.
If you leave your home and lock all your firearms in your safe, you have constructive possession of those firearms. Laws that prohibit possession are judged based on the ability to control an object, which is why it is possible to charge multiple people with possession of a single object because each of those people had the ability to control the object.
Possession of firearms during certain crimes by those previously convicted: It is a felony for any
person who has previously been convicted of or previously entered a
guilty plea to the offense of murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, rape,
aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy, aggravated sexual battery, or
any felony involving the use or possession of a firearm and who shall have on or
within arm's reach of his or her person a firearm during the commission of, or
the attempt to commit:
- Any crime against or involving the person of another;
- The unlawful entry into a building or vehicle;
- A theft from a building or theft of a vehicle;
- Any crime involving the possession, manufacture, delivery, distribution,
dispensing, administering, selling, or possession with intent to distribute any
- Any crime involving the trafficking of cocaine, marijuana, or illegal drugs
(Be sure to check the Federal laws that pertain to possession of firearms. A
felony conviction from a federal crime will also disqualify you and you will be
in violation of both state and federal law if you are caught in possession of a
firearm. Federal law (which is beyond the scope of this document) also
addresses the possession of firearms by those convicted of certain crimes as well as non-residents and illegal aliens whereas
state law does not. IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO KNOW THE LAW)
Possession of handguns by minors: Minors (persons under the age of
18) are NOT allowed by Georgia law to possess handguns unless the following
(It appears as if GA law, even though it prohibits minors from possessing handguns except as provided above, does not
prohibit minors from possessing rifles and shotguns, unless they have been
convicted of a felony or forcible misdemeanor. Under GA law, children under
the age of 13 cannot be considered or found guilty of any crime. 16-11-132, 16-3-1)
- Attending a hunter education course or a firearms safety course.
- Engaging in practice in the use of a firearm or target shooting
- Engaging in an organized competition involving the use of a firearm or
participating in or practicing for a performance by an organized group
- Hunting or fishing pursuant to a valid license if such person has in his
or her possession such a valid hunting or fishing license if required; is
engaged in legal hunting or fishing; has permission of the owner of the land
on which the activities are being conducted; and the pistol or revolver,
whenever loaded, is carried only in an open and fully exposed manner (no
concealing of the firearm)
- Traveling to or from any activity described above, provided that firearm
is carried in a unconcealed and unloaded fashion.
- Any minor who is on real property under the control of such person's
parent, legal guardian, or grandparent and who has the permission of such
person's parent or legal guardian to possess a firearm.
- Any minor who is at such person's residence and who, with the permission
of such person's parent or legal guardian, possesses a pistol or revolver
for the purpose of exercising the rights authorized in Code Section 16-3-21
or 16-3-23. (self defense laws, listed further down the page)
- The exceptions DO NOT apply to any minor who has been convicted of a
forcible felony or forcible misdemeanor, as defined in Code Section 16-1-3,
or who has been adjudicated delinquent under the provisions of Article 1 of
Chapter 11 of Title 15 for an offense which would constitute a forcible
felony or forcible misdemeanor, as defined in Code Section 16-1-3, if such
person were an adult.
Possession of sawed-off shotgun or rifle, machine gun, silencer, or dangerous weapon: In Georgia, the definition of these items are...
Any person who has registered a sawed-off shotgun, sawed-off rifle, machine gun, dangerous weapon, or silencer according to the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA) or
the National Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA) may possess that sawed-off shotgun, sawed-off rifle, machine gun, dangerous weapon, or silencer in Georgia (most commonly referred to as NFA firearms, information on how to register an NFA firearm is beyond the scope of this document... what Georgia calls "sawed off" is referred to as "short barreled" by the NFA).
Be advised that this law only addresses the possession of a sawed-off shotgun, sawed-off rifle, machine gun, dangerous weapon, or silencer and not the
bearing (to wear or carry) of such weapons in public. Be aware that the Georgia laws regarding the carry of weapons may or may not restrict how or where (see "Carrying Weapons" and "Places Off Limits to Carry" sections below) a sawed-off shotgun, sawed-off rifle, machine gun, dangerous weapon, or silencer may be carried.
For instance, certain machine guns do meet the definition of a handgun (as defined at the top of this page), therefore the laws regarding handguns would apply to those certain machine guns.
Also note that there may be federal laws that limit the possession and carrying of
dangerous weapons to only a person's home and/or place of business. You may
not be violating Georgia law by carrying a dangerous weapon in public, but you
very well could be violating federal law. Remember it is your responsibility
to know the law!
- A sawed off shotgun means a shotgun or any weapon made
from a shotgun whether by alteration, modification, or otherwise having one or
more barrels (including the chamber) less than 18 inches in length or if such
weapon as modified has an overall length of less than 26 inches.
- A sawed off rifle means a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and
intended to be fired from the shoulder; and designed or redesigned, made or
remade, to use the energy of the explosive in a fixed metallic cartridge to
fire only a single projectile through a rifle bore for each single pull of the
trigger; and which has a barrel or barrels (including the chamber) of less
than 16 inches in length or has an overall length of less than 26 inches.
- A machine gun means any weapon which shoots or is designed to shoot,
automatically, more than six shots, without manual reloading, by a single
function of the trigger.
- A dangerous weapon means any weapon commonly known as a 'rocket launcher,'
'bazooka,' or 'recoilless rifle' which fires explosive or non explosive rockets
designed to injure or kill personnel or destroy heavy armor, or similar weapon
used for such purpose. The term shall also mean a weapon commonly known as a
'mortar' which fires high explosive from a metallic cylinder and which is
commonly used by the armed forces as an antipersonnel weapon or similar weapon
used for such purpose. The term shall also mean a weapon commonly known as a
'hand grenade' or other similar weapon which is designed to explode and injure
personnel or similar weapon used for such purpose.
- A silencer means any device for silencing or diminishing the report of any
portable weapon such as a rifle, carbine, pistol, revolver, machine gun,
shotgun, fowling piece, or other device from which a shot, bullet, or
projectile may be discharged by an explosive.
This law does not apply to dangerous weapons that have been rendered
permanently inoperable. (16-11-124)
(16-11-121, 16-11-122, 16-11-123, 16-11-124 )
Possession and/or discharge of a firearm while under the influence
It is against the law to be in possession of firearm while engaged in hunting
and fishing activities or discharge a firearm while under the influence of
alcohol or any drug or any combination of alcohol and any drug to the extent
that it is unsafe for the person to discharge such firearm except in the defense
of life, health, and property;
It is also against the law to discharge a firearm while engaged in any
shooting activity while under the influence of alcohol or any drug or any
combination of alcohol and any drug.
It is NO defense to violation of this law even if you are legally entitled to
use such a drug (prescription). (16-11-134, 27-3-7)
Registration of Firearms
Georgia does not require the registration of firearms owned by citizens. Georgia law actually prohibits local city/county governments from registering firearms when applying for a firearms license.
However dangerous weapons (as described above) must be registered in compliance with the National Firearm Act (NFA) of 1934 and Federal Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968 (information on how to register an NFA firearm is beyond the scope of this document).
Purchasing of Firearms
Georgia has only 2 laws that regulate the purchasing of firearms. All other purchasing laws come from Federal law. The BATFE has a reference page that explains those laws (at that site, when the BATFE says "licensed" they mean firearm dealers and "unlicensed" means private individuals).
Straw Purchase / Anti-Bloomberg Law -
Any person who attempts to solicit, persuade, encourage, or entice any dealer to transfer or otherwise convey a firearm other than to the actual buyer, as well as any other person who willfully and intentionally aids or abets such person, shall be guilty of a felony. (16-11-113)
Furnishing a Pistol to a Minor - It is illegal to sell or give a pistol or revolver to a person under 18 years old. Possession of handguns by minors is only allowed as explained in the Possession section above. (16-11-101.1)
Basically, to carry a long gun you do not have to have a license to carry as long as you are not prohibited from owning a firearm. To carry a handgun openly or concealed in the state of Georgia (other than on your property or inside your home, car, or your place of business), you
must have a Georgia Weapons Carry License (or the older Georgia Firearm License) issued under code 16-11-129. To carry a knife designed for offense and defense with a blade over 5 inches you must have a Georgia Weapons Carry License (or the older Georgia Firearm License) issued under code 16-11-129. There are exceptions, read below to find out what those are.
Weapons Carry: You are not allowed to carry a weapon (as defined at the top of this page) without having a weapons carry license unless you fit one of the exceptions below (this is in general, there are some places off-limits to carry even with a Weapons Carry License):
Violation of this code section is a misdemeanor for the first offense and a felony if a second offense is committed within 5 years of the first. (16-11-125.1, 16-11-126 )
- If you are not prohibited by law from possessing (see the definition under the "Possession" section at the top of this page) a firearm you may carry a weapon on your own property and in your own home,
motor vehicle and place of business without needing a valid weapons carry license. (including the property that the business is located on
IF the property is owned by the business owner). You do not have to have permission from the business owner in order to be exempt from carrying
a concealed weapon without a license at your place of business (however that does NOT mean you cannot be fired for carrying without permission. If you cross any property in transit between your property, car or office then you would be in violation of the law.
- If you are not prohibited by law from possessing a firearm you may carry a long gun without needing a valid weapons carry license. However if it is loaded, you must carry the long gun in an open and fully exposed manner (this exemption is odd, a long gun is not defined as a weapon so I am not sure what law you would be breaking if you did carry a loaded long gun concealed).
- If you are not prohibited by law from possessing a firearm you may carry a handgun provided it is unloaded and enclosed inside a case (There is nothing that defines exactly what unloaded means, to be on the safe side you should assume it means no loaded magazine inserted into the gun).
- If you are not ineligible for a license to carry, you can carry in any private passenger motorized vehicle, provided that the owner (or other legal representative of the property) has not forbid possession of weapons or long guns on the property (the difference between this and the first one is that you can carry in someone else's car provided you could get a GWL and they do not forbid you possessing it in their car).
- If you have a valid hunting or fishing license or do not legally have to have one, you can carry a handgun or long gun while you are actively engaged in hunting, fishing or sport shooting with permission from the owner of the land you are on.
- If you have a license to carry from a state that honors the Georgia Weapons Carry License, as long as you are not a resident of Georgia and you follow Georgia laws while you are here (a map of states that honor the Georgia license is here).
Note that a long gun is NOT defined as a "weapon" and that not all firearms are covered as a weapon or a long gun (a firearm with a barrel over 12 inches but under 18 inches is not a "long gun" or a "weapon" as it is defined in 16-11-125.1).
Employment exception: Persons employed in certain jobs (whether at work or off-duty) are exempt from the law above. Jobs such as peace officer, Wardens, superintendents, and keepers of correctional institutions, jails, or other institutions for the detention of persons accused or convicted of an offense, persons in the military service of the state or of the United States, and others. Please see 16-11-130 for the full list.
Places off limits to carry
There are 9 laws that address where firearms may be borne (carried)
Some apply to weapons (handguns and knives as defined at the top of this page,) and long guns (as defined at the top of this page,) while other places apply to everything else other than a weapon.
Carrying a Weapon in an Unauthorized Location:
Carrying a weapon or long gun in any of the following places is against the law (misdemeanor offense, exceptions are below the list)...
Private Property: It is up to the private property owner or persons in legal control of private property (through a lease, rental agreement, licensing agreement, contract, or any other agreement to control access to such private property) to allow carry or to ban weapons or long guns. If they decide to not allow weapons or long guns, they must do so in accordance with paragraph (3) of subsection (b) of Code Section 16-7-21 (Trespassing law in which it is unlawful to remain on the property or in the vehicle if you receive notice from the owner/someone in control that you must leave). As a general rule, a gun buster sticker on a door is not enough to trigger the trespass law as it is not a notice for you to depart, however there could be certain situations in which certain wording on a sign and your acknowledgement of reading the sign and ignoring what it says could constitute a trigger for the trespassing law.
- In a government building. (if the building is open for business and where ingress into such building is restricted or screened by security personnel, read "-- Exception" below for details)
-- "Government Building" means:
- The building in which a government entity is housed (Please see the definition for "government entity" below for more information)
- The building where a government entity meets in its official capacity; provided, however, that if such building is not a publicly owned building, such building shall be considered a government building for the purposes of this Code section only during the time such government entity is meeting at such building; or
- The portion of any building that is not a publicly owned building that is occupied by a government entity. (if a government entity rented out space in a mall and actually occupies it with people, only the "store" space they rented would be off limits)
--"Government Entity" means an office, agency, authority, department, commission, board, body, division, instrumentality, or institution of the state or any county, municipal corporation, consolidated government, or local board of education within this state (This part of the law is kind of vague depending on who exactly is included regarding an "office" or "department" as to where they are "housed" or "occupied". The meaning most favorable to a person charged with violating this law (which is the way a court should rule) is limited to the location that contains the person that is in charge of the entire entity. Example: Your local tax office has 3 locations (all publicly owned) where you can make payments, the county tax commissioner is housed in building A and is off-limits, buildings b and c are not off limits because they do not house the Office of the tax commissioner. The meaning least favorable to a person charged with violating this law (which is a way police and prosecutors could interpret it and a court might rule) includes any location where an employee operates out of. Example: Your local tax office has 3 locations (all publicly owned) where you can make payments, all 3 locations are off limits. This does not include a blanket ban on all publicly owned buildings since the law says that a publicly owned building is only off-limits if an entity is housed or meets in the building).
-- Exception: In addition to a building that meets one of the 3 above criteria for being a "government building", that building must also have security personnel which screens or restricts ingress into the building. If there is no one screening or restricting those entering into the building, it is not off limits. If you do not know if there is screening or resticting at the entrance, upon being notified that there is ongoing screening or restriction, you are not guilty of any crime if you immediatly exit. If a member of the security team is a peace officer and you fail to immediatly leave the building or exit the screening area, this is a misdemeanor offense. There is no definition of screen or restrict, so it is not known exactly what is required.
- In a courthouse (a building occupied by judicial courts and containing rooms in which judicial proceedings are held)
- In a jail or prison
- In a place of worship, unless the governing body or authority of the place of worship permits the carrying of weapons or long guns by license holders. A license holder caught violating this provistion is not subject to arrest and but shall be fined not more than $100.
- In a state mental health facility as defined in Code Section 37-1-1 which admits individuals on an involuntary basis for treatment of mental illness, developmental disability, or addictive disease
- On the premises of a nuclear power facility (punishment for carry is a misdemeanor, carry with intent to do bodily harm is a felony)
- Within 150 feet of a polling location when elections are being conducted and it is being used as a polling location
A person with a Weapons Carry License may have a weapon that is under their control while in a car or the weapon can be left inside a locked compartment, container, or rack on the vehicle parked in a designated parking facility (the place people are supposed to park when visiting one of the unauthorized locations). A person can also approach security upon arrival and notify them of the presence of the weapon and you must follow the instructions for removing, securing, storing or temporarily surrendering the weapon or long gun.
There is a list of people who are authorized to carry without the need of a Weapons Carry License (polling locations has its own list 21-3-413) such as law enforcement officers, district attorneys, judges, magistrates, solicitors, persons in the state or US military and more. Please see 16-11-130 for the full list. (16-11-127 )
Weapons on school property, transportation and functions: (Please read the special note below about this definition) It is
unlawful for a person to carry ANY type of weapon onto any
real property (real estate... land or buildings) owned by or leased to any public or private elementary school,
secondary school, or school board and used for elementary or secondary education, any public or private
technical school, vocational school, college, university, or institution of post
This code section does not apply to persons who have a valid Weapons Carry license (formerly the Georgia Firearms License)
when such person has a weapon in the vehicle which is parked or in transit through the property or when the license holder carries or picks up a student at a school building, school function, or
school property or on a bus or other transportation furnished by the school.
(I'm not sure of the total legality actually carrying into a school building
while picking up or dropping off a student, but it appears to be completely
legal since the code does not say anything about not being allowed to enter the
building while carrying. I wouldn't loiter around in the halls or cafeteria,
but instead make a straight bee line to the office and back in order to drop off
or pick up a student if you are required to do so.) This code section shall
not apply to Teachers and other school personnel who are otherwise authorized to possess or carry weapons, provided that any such weapon is in a locked compartment of a motor vehicle or one which is in a locked container in or a locked firearms rack which is on a motor vehicle.
(note that while you have the ability to park your car on the property (you can leave the weapon inside the car while you go somewhere else) and carry while picking up or dropping off students, outside of that you cannot carry on school property even if you have a license. If you park your car and get out with the weapon still on your person and you do not meet one of the carry exceptions (such as dropping off or picking up a student), you are breaking the law. Be careful!)
Special Note: The above information is valid as for what has been published in the OCGA but it is not the final version. Two bills were passed in 2014, HB60 and HB 826 which both modified the school zone law in different ways. HB 826 removed the prohibition on carry on school property with a license, HB 60 kept the existing ban. The state code commission said there was a conflict and took the wording of HB 60. There is debate and currently a few lawsuits over the proper interpretation of what conflicted if anything and what should be the actual law. The description above is what the code commission adopted as the law, but this could change.
Deadly Weapons on the premises of a nuclear power facility;
It is (misdemeanor offense) against the law for a person (licensed or
not) to carry, possess, or have under such person's control while on the premises of a nuclear power facility a firearm or weapon. (There are some exceptions, but they all have to do with official duties or training.) (16-11-127.2)
Carrying deadly weapons on public transportation: Except for those with a valid license to carry, it is a felony offense to carry a deadly weapon onto a rail vehicle, or bus that would be accessible. Carrying into a building that houses the public transportation is also ok if you have a valid license to carry or if you properly declare it. In order to carry on a commercial airline or on AMTRAK,
the firearm must be unloaded, locked in a case inside your checked luggage and separate from its ammunition and
declared to the transportation company. It is against Federal Law to carry a firearm into the secure areas (Past the TSA metal detectors) of the airport(16-11-130.2, 16-12-123, 16-12-127)
State parks, historic sites, and recreational areas: Except for those with a valid license to carry when carrying a handgun (as defined at the top of this page), it is against the
law in Georgia to carry or attempt to carry a deadly weapon onto a park, historic site, or recreational area. The term 'park,
historic site, or recreational area' means a park, historic site, or
recreational area which is operated by or for and is under the custody and
control of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Without a valid license to carry when carrying a handgun (as defined at the top of this page) it is unlawful for
any person to use or possess in any park, historic site, or recreational area
any firearms (with a WCL/GFL it is also legal to carry that handgun into buildings on the property). It is unlawful to carry onto park, historic site or recreational area property, bows and arrows, spring guns, air rifles, slingshots, or any other
device which discharges projectiles by any means (unless it is handgun and you have a WCL/GFL), unless the device is unloaded
and stored so as not to be readily accessible or unless such use has been
approved within restricted areas by prior written permission of the commissioner
of natural resources or his authorized representative. It shall be
unlawful to refuse to leave a park, historic site, or recreational area after
violating any law or regulation of the Board of Natural Resources promulgated
pursuant to Code Section 12-3-9 and after being directed to leave by an
authorized representative of the department. (If you are caught carrying a
handgun without a license or any other firearm or breaking any of the other rules, then you can be asked to leave the
park area by an authorized rep from DNR.) Any person who violates any of the
provisions of this Code section commits the offense of criminal trespass. (If
you refuse to leave after being asked too, then you can be arrested for criminal
trespass) (12-3-10, 16-11-127)
Wildlife management areas: Except for those with a valid license to carry when carrying a handgun, it is against the
law in Georgia to possess a firearm during a closed hunting season for that wildlife management area unless such firearm is unloaded and stored in a motor vehicle so as not to be readily accessible or to possess a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle during a legal open hunting season for that area.
Possession of firearm while hunting with bow and arrow: Except for those with a valid carry license when carrying a handgun, it shall be unlawful for any person to possess any center-fire or rim fire firearm while hunting with a bow and arrow during archery or primitive weapons season for deer or while hunting with a muzzle loading firearm during a primitive weapons season for deer. (You can now protect yourself from 2 legged creatures while using primitive weapons to hunt for the 4 legged kind)
State Capitol and related buildings: Except as provided in the unauthorized locations section above regarding carry of weapons, it is illegal to carry a firearm, knife (as defined at the top of this page), explosive or incendiary device or compound, bludgeon, metal knuckles, or any other dangerous or deadly weapon, instrument, or device into the state capitol building or any building housing committee offices, committee rooms, or offices of members, officials, or employees of the General Assembly or either house (unauthorized locations cover the carry of a weapon (handgun or knife) with a license, however carry of any other device like a long gun or metal knuckles is prohibited by this law whether you have a license to carry or not) .
Jail/Prison Guard Line: Except as provided in the unauthorized locations section above regarding carry of weapons, it is illegal to carry a gun or other dangerous inside a guard line without permission from the jailer or law enforcement personnel (unauthorized locations cover the carry of a weapon (handgun or knife) with a license, however carry of any other device like a long gun is prohibited by this law (without specific permission) whether you have a license to carry or not) .
Weapons Carrying Licenses
There are 2 weapons licenses that are issued in Georgia. A license issued
under code 43-38-10 is a special carry license that is issued to armed security
guards employed by a security agency. This license gives its bearer the
authority to carry everywhere a LEO can carry, but only while on duty AND only
if it is in performance of the bearer's duties. This license is NOT valid when
the bearer is off duty and the bearer is limited to a revolver caliber of up to .357 magnum and a semi-automatic caliber up to 45 ACP. This license is beyond the scope of this
document, but if you wish to get more information, it can be obtained in the
Georgia code in title 43 chapter 38.
A license issued under code 16-11-129 is a Georgia Weapons Carry License (formerly the Georgia Firearms License) and it is
issued citizens wishing to exercise their
"right to carry". This license is subject to restrictions of carry
found in Georgia code 16-11-126 - 16-11-129. To qualify for this license you
must NOT meet any of these exceptions; No license will be granted to:
Notes about license exceptions:
- Any person younger than 21 years of age unless he or she meets all 3 of the following: (i) Is at least 18 years of age; (ii) Provides proof that he or she has completed basic training in the armed forces of the United States; and (iii) Provides proof that he or she is actively serving in the armed forces of the United States or has been honorably discharged from such service;
- Any person who has been convicted of a felony by a court of this state or any other state; by a court of the United States including its territories, possessions, and dominions; or by a court of any foreign nation and has not been pardoned for such felony by the President of the United States, the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, or the person or agency empowered to grant pardons under the constitution or laws of such state or nation;
- Any person whom proceedings are pending for any felony;
- Any person who is a fugitive from justice;
- Any person who is prohibited from possessing or shipping firearms pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 922 subsection (g) and (n)
- Any person who has been convicted of an offense arising out of the unlawful manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance or other dangerous drug; (convicted for making or selling, not for possessing)
- Any person who has had his or her weapons carry license revoked pursuant to subsection (e) of 16-11-129;
- Any person who has been convicted of any of the following and has not been free of all restraint or supervision in connection therewith and free of any other conviction for at least five years immediately preceding the date of the application: (i) Carrying a weapon without a weapons carry license in violation of Code Section 16-11-126; or (ii) Carrying a weapon or long gun in an unauthorized location in violation of Code Section 16-11-127
- Any person who has been convicted of any misdemeanor involving the use or possession of a controlled substance and has not been free of all restraint or supervision in connection therewith or free of the following 2 items for at least five years immediately preceding the date of the application: (i) A second conviction of any misdemeanor involving the use or possession of a controlled substance; or (ii) Any conviction of an offense arising out of the unlawful manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance or other dangerous drug OR a conviction resulting in revocation of license, OR a conviction prohibiting possessing firearms pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 922 subsection (g) and (n);
- Any person who has been hospitalized as an inpatient in any mental hospital or alcohol or drug treatment center within the five years immediately preceding the application. The judge of the probate court may require any applicant to sign a waiver authorizing any mental hospital or treatment center to inform the judge whether or not the applicant has been an inpatient in any such facility in the last five years and authorizing the superintendent of such facility to make to the judge a recommendation regarding whether the applicant is a threat to the safety of others and whether a license to carry a weapon should be issued. When such a waiver is required by the judge, the applicant shall pay a fee of $3.00 for reimbursement of the cost of making such a report by the mental health hospital, alcohol or drug treatment center, or the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, which the judge shall remit to the hospital, center, or department. The judge shall keep any such hospitalization or treatment information confidential. It shall be at the discretion of the judge, considering the circumstances surrounding the hospitalization and the recommendation of the superintendent of the hospital or treatment center where the individual was a patient, to issue the weapons carry license or renewal license.
- Any person who has been adjudicated mentally incompetent to stand trial; or
- Any person who has been adjudicated not guilty by reason of insanity at the time of the crime pursuant to Part 2 of Article 6 of Chapter 7 of Title 17.
"Convicted" means an adjudication of guilt. Such term shall not include an order of discharge and exoneration pursuant to Article 3 of Chapter 8 of Title 42 (First offender treatment, if successfully completed, usually does not result in an adjudication of guilt, which would mean you were not convicted.)
The last 3 exceptions involving mental health have a process for relief of these prohibitions on obtaining a license. Please see 16-11-129(b.1) Petitions for relief from certain licensing exceptions for more information.
To obtain a license, a person must go to the probate court in the county in
which they live in. (The process may be different for each probate office
from county to county, check with the probate court for the exact directions
that need to be followed in order to apply for a firearms license. The License Process by County page has the phone number for each county's probate court and may have the process itself as submitted by other GFL holders.) After paying the fee and filling out the application, the
probate court clerk will process and the application and if you are a new applicant for a license, the court will either take your fingerprints there, or will tell you where to go to get your fingerprints taken. If no issues are found they should issue a license within 50 days.
Your Georgia Firearms License exempts the holder from a NICS background check when you go to buy a firearm. Some
sheriff's offices may offer a free public handgun course. It is recommend you
take it as the deputies who teach the class will go over gun safety, proper
loading, unloading techniques, proper carrying and drawing techniques,
explanation of the firearm laws and use of deadly force laws, and range time to
practice with your carry weapon.
Your license will be valid for 5 years and it MUST be in your possession at
ALL TIMES when you are carrying a firearm. It is a $10 fine if you do not have it on your person while carrying. LEO's can ask to see your firearm license, but they cannot demand to see it just to check to see if you have a license.
There is no requirement in the Georgia law to volunteer that you are armed when approached by a LEO, but if you
are asked DON'T LIE! 99% of LEO's have a lot of appreciation for those who
are honest and even more so for those that are forthcoming. Most won't even
care if you are carrying, some will thank you for letting them know and a select
few will give you a hard time about carrying. I have had over a dozen
interactions with LEO's while carrying and only 2 negative experiences. (16-11-137) It is against federal law for the court or Sheriff to require or even request your Social Security Number. If you are told that it will be denied or delayed in processing, it is not true. You will not be denied and there is only a remote chance that your application will be delayed. If you do not wish to give out your SSN to the Probate Court or Sheriff, there is nothing they can do to make you.
Employment exception: Persons employed in certain jobs are exempt from the law above. Jobs such as peace officer, keepers of a correctional facility, persons in the military service of the state or of the United States, and others. Please see 16-11-130 for the full list.
Georgia law allows for "reciprocity" of carry licenses, which means two states agree they will accept the other state's license. This can be done by a function of the law by itself or by an actual agreement signed between the governments of two states.
Georgia's law states that if another state will honor a Georgia Weapons Carry License, then Georgia will honor their license or permit. The GA attorney general can also enter into reciprocity agreements with other
states to allow licensed Georgia residents to carry in the reciprocal state which makes the honoring of the license more official (the AG creates an official list, though it is often slow to be updated). To find out what states have reciprocal agreements and
allow Georgia residents to carry in those states, visit my Reciprocity page.
An explicit preemption law means that the state has created a law that plainly spells out that they have restricted what ordinances or regulations that local cities and counties as well as state agencies, boards, departments, commissions, or authorities can and cannot create regarding a certain subject. Georgia has 4 explicit preemption laws regarding weapons. Two regarding fireams, one regarding weapons (as defined in 16-11-127.1) and one regarding knives.
Weapon Preemption Counties, cities, municipalities, other local governments, as well as state agencies, boards, departments, commissions, political subdivision, school district, or authorities cannot pass
rules, policies, laws, ordinances, or anything by any other means that regulate gun shows, the possession, ownership,
transport, carrying, transfer, sale, purchase, licensing, or registration of
firearms, components of firearms, firearms dealers, or dealers in firearms
State preemption also restricts the ability of any unit of government (other than the State itself) to file a lawsuit against any firearms or ammunition manufacturer, trade association, or dealer for damages, abatement, or injunctive relief resulting from or relating to the lawful design, manufacture, marketing, or sale of firearms or ammunition to the public. (This does not include cases brought by a government entity for breach of contract or express warranty as to firearms or ammunition purchased by the political subdivision or local government authority)
State preemption does allow local governments to pass ordinances "reasonably restricting" the discharge
or shooting of firearms within the political subdivision. "Reasonably
restricting" means restricting the discharge of firearms in pursuant to
target practicing and hunting. This does not apply to discharging of firearms
pursuant to defense of health, life, and property (they can make shooting a firearm illegal except for when it is in self defense).
State preemption does allow local governments; to regulate the transport,
carrying, or possession of firearms by employees of the local unit of government
in the course of their employment with that local unit of government; requiring
the ownership of guns by heads of households within the political subdivision,
and reasonably limiting or prohibiting the discharge of firearms within the
boundaries of the municipal corporation.
State preemption law does allow local
governments to pass ordinances requiring the ownership of firearms within the
political subdivision, the city of Kennesaw requires heads of the household to
maintain a firearm in the house at all times.
Knife Preemption Counties, municipalities, and consolidated governments cannot regulate the possession, manufacture, sale, or transfer of a knife or any cutting instrument with a blade, unless it is in regards to a courthouse or government building. (Effective July 1st, 2012, 16-11-136.).
Shooting Range Protection Act The state has also preempted the ability of local governments and residents from suing (civil or criminal liability, damages, abatement, or injunctive relief resulting from or relating to noise if the range remains in compliance with noise control or nuisance abatement rules, regulations, statutes, or ordinances applicable to the range on the date on which it commenced operation) or regulating (relating to noise control, noise pollution, or noise abatement adopted or applied retroactively) gun ranges. Also, no shooting range shall be or shall become a nuisance, either public or private, solely as a result of changed conditions in or around the locality of such range if the range has been in operation for one year since the date on which it commenced operation as a sport shooting range (expansion of the range or types of firearms allowed does not affect the date of commencement). (41-1-9)
Public Housing To require, as a condition of tenancy in public housing, any prohibition or restriction of any lawful possession of a firearm within an individual dwelling unless required by federal law or regulation. (8-3-202)
There are 3 code sections that govern when lethal or deadly force may lawfully be used.
Defense from a forcible felony; A person is justified in using threats or force to the degree they reasonably believe it is necessary to stop another person's imminent use of unlawful force. A person is justified in using deadly force which may harm or kill only if he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to himself or herself or a third person or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony (unless it is regarding defense of habitation, which has its own requirements below). You are not justified if you were the aggressor or you are/were/on-the-way-to committing a felony.
(The state has pre-empted local cities and counties from further restricting this defense.)(16-3-21)
Defense of habitation; (here habitation means dwelling, motor vehicle, or place of business) A person is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if any one of the following is met:
- A person is breaking\has broken into your home in a violent and tumultuous manner, and you think that the intruder is going to assault you or someone else living there.
- A person who is not a member of the family or household and who unlawfully and forcibly enters the residence and you know it is an unlawful entry.
- The person using such force reasonably believes that the entry is made or attempted for the purpose of committing a felony therein and that such force is necessary to prevent the commission of the felony.
Defense of property other than habitation; Lethal force cannot be used to protect real property unless the person using such force reasonably believes that it is necessary to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.(16-3-24)
Notes about Deadly force:
No duty to retreat: If you have determined you need to use lethal force (as stated in one of the underlined "Defense" sections immediately above) you do not have to try to retreat before using that force. This is an a part of a set of laws known as "Stand Your Ground," "Shoot First", or "License To Murder". In Georgia, there has never been a duty to retreat as per common law, however this was officially codified into law and went into effect July 1st, 2006 (basically, courts in GA have never required retreat unless the person was the aggressor, this common law creation of the courts was written into the official law in 2006).
Other Legal Defenses: Use of deadly force as described above is also a defense against certain carry/possession laws (carry laws found from 16-11-125.1 thru 16-11-138) you may inadvertantly break while you were using deadly force. (16-11-138)
Criminal and Civil Immunity: If your defense is valid as described above, you are immune from criminal prosecution (unless you were using a weapon in which the carry of it is unlawful as found in 16-11-120 thru 16-11-125, which is about the carry of sawed off rifles/shotguns, machine guns, silencers, and other dangerous weapons) and civil liability actions.(16-3-23.1, 16-3-24.2, 51-11-9)
Here are some various other laws that pertain to firearms. It is unlawful to point a firearm,
loaded or not, at another person not necessary in defense of life, health, and
property. It is unlawful to discharge a firearm within 50 yards of a public road, unless in defense of life,
health, and property. It is unlawful to discharge a firearm on some else's
land without permission of the landowner. (16-11-102, 16-11-103,
While state law has preemption over most local firearm and knife ordinances and regulations, this does not mean that there are no local firearm and knife ordinances. Many cities and a growing number of the metro counties have a complete ban on the discharge of firearms (except in self-defense). Other cities and counties have a ban on discharging a firearm within a certain distance from a road or a neighbor's house or land owned by the city/county. Check Municode.com or your local government's website to see if your local ordinances are online. Also please be aware that local cities and counties can only ban knives from courthouses and government buildings (As of July 1st, 2012, local governments cannot regulate the possession, manufacture, sale, or transfer of a knife unless it is in regards to a courthouse or government building 16-11-136.).
Many cities and counties still have ordinances which are preempted by state law. While these ordinances cannot be used to punish you, if it is on the books, the police may still cite you for it and it could cost you attorneys fees to get the case dismissed. If you find such an ordinance that is preempted, you should contact your representative in the local government (mayor, councilperson, commissioner) and ask that they remove the preempted ordinance.