Fayette eyes ban on guns, slingshots in all rec areas
Tue, 05/08/2007 - 5:17pmBy: John Thompson
Slingshots and otherwise legally permitted firearms could soon be banned as illegal in solidly Republican Fayette Countyâ€™s parks.
Thatâ€™s part of a county ordinance that would restrict residents carrying weapons into Fayetteâ€™s parks and recreation areas. But the ordinance could face a long uphill legal battle.
The ordinance on the agenda at tomorrow nightâ€™s County Commission meeting would also prohibit the use of fireworks in the countyâ€™s parks, historic sites and recreation areas. But the issue that is likely to come under legal fire is Section 14.2 of the proposed ordinance.
The section stipulates that it shall be unlawful for any person to possess any firearms, bows and arrows, spring guns, air rifles, slingshots or any other device that discharges projectiles, unless the device is unloaded and stored so itâ€™s not readily accessible or unless the use has been approved by the Fayette County Commission.
However, state law already allows the carrying of a firearm â€" including a loaded handgun â€" by any person with a state permit in such areas.
Fayette commissioners need only look to neighboring Coweta Countyâ€™s adoption of a similar ordinance, which is already involved in litigation.
Last year, Coweta County passed an ordinance that prohibits firearms, air (or spring-loaded) rifles/pistols, fireworks, and any device firing or propelling a projectile in the countyâ€™s recreation facilities, sports fields, or any surrounding areas that are the property of the county.
The Coweta ordinance also stipulates that a violation shall be punished as a misdemeanor in the same manner as are other ordinances of the county with a fine of not more than $1,000 and a maximum term in the county jail of not more than six months.
The county is being sued by resident Edward Stone and Georgiacarry.org, a gun rights advocacy group.
In the complaint filed in Coweta County Superior Court, the plaintiffs cited a section of the Official Code of Georgia 16-11-173 as one of the foundations for the lawsuit.
In section (b)(1) the code reads:
â€No county or municipal corporation, by zoning or by ordinance, resolution, or other enactment, shall regulate in any manner gun shows; the possession, ownership, transport, carrying, transfer, sale, purchase, licensing, or registration of firearms or components of firearms; firearms dealers; or dealers in firearms components.â€
When told about Fayetteâ€™s proposed ordinance, Georgiacarry.orgâ€™s attorney John Monroe was very succinct in his opinion.
â€œThat ordinance would be pre-empted by state law,â€ he said.
Currently, Monroe said, he knows of eight counties in Georgia that have enacted similar ordinances. Two counties have voluntarily repealed the ordinance and the other counties are having discussions with the gun rights group. Currently, Coweta County is the only county involved in court litigation.
â€œThere are only three areas local governments can regulate firearms: The carrying of weapons by employees, the requirement of ownership by the head of a household and the limiting of discharging firearms within its jurisdiction,â€ the attorney added.
In the lawsuit with Coweta County, Monroe is asking for the ordinance to be voided.
Coweta County answered the complaint in late February by maintaining its ordinance is not pre-empted by the state statute.
Fayette Countyâ€™s discussion of the ordinance is at 7 p.m. tomorrow night at the administration building on Stonewall Avenue in Fayetteville.