What in the WORLD does Public Gathering Mean?

Discussion in 'Places Off-Limits' started by Malum Prohibitum, Apr 26, 2006.

  1. Malum Prohibitum

    Malum Prohibitum Moderator Staff Member

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    Well, my opinion will not keep you out of jail, but I think it means, in addition to the places expressly listed, places where the public gathers for a particular function, and it is only a public gathering so long as the function is going on. One case and an AG opinion appear to support this.

    THE CASE:

    McDonalds is, by the way, the only restaurant to have been tested in the appellate courts of this state and approved as a "carry zone"!

    State v. Burns, 200 Ga. App. 16 (1991)
    Appellee was arrested at a McDonald's restaurant [and] . . . had a valid gun permit. . . . . [H]e was charged with carrying a deadly weapon to a public gathering (OCGA § 16-11-127). The trial court granted appellee's motion to dismiss the accusation, stating that McDonald's was not a public gathering as contemplated under the statute, and the State appealed.
    OCGA § 16-11-127(b) provides that a "public gathering" includes but is not limited to "athletic or sporting events, schools or school functions, 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 State argues that the statute seeks to protect people from injury at public gatherings, caused by others who bring deadly weapons to such places and does not exclude an establishment such as McDonald's, which is a place where the public lawfully gathers. However, this broad interpretation equates "public gathering" to "public place" and blurs the distinction we must assume the legislature intended to make in specifically referring to gatherings in OCGA § 16-11-127 and by limiting its restriction to gatherings as opposed to proscribing the carrying of deadly weapons in public places as defined by OCGA § 16-1-3(15). We agree with appellee that such a construction would render licensing statutes unnecessary because of the potential of violating the statutes by carrying a weapon outside one's household, in public, where the possibility exists that people might gather around someone carrying a weapon. We have held that a conviction was authorized when a weapon was brought to a place where "people were present" (Jordan v. State, 166 Ga.App. 417(4), 304 S.E.2d 522 (1983) [the auto auction case, M.P.]), and it appears from reading subsection (b ) and giving the words their ordinary meaning that the statute should apply, in addition to the situations described therein, when people are gathered or will be gathered for a particular function and not when a weapon is carried lawfully to a public place, where people may gather. Accordingly, the focus is not on the "place" but on the "gathering" of people, and in our view, the court did not err in dismissing the accusation because appellee's possession of a weapon and mere presence in a public place did not constitute a violation of OCGA § 16- 11-127.
    Judgment affirmed.


    I bolded what I thought important.

    " . . . for a particular function . . ." I think that is the most important language in the case. I really think the only difference between this case and Jordan, cited therein, is that Jordan was up to no good and Burns was just lawfully carrying when he ordered a cheeseburger. Since public gathering cases almost always involve a criminal, the case law is usually bad.

    THE AG OPINION:


    The attorney general relied on State v. Burns to answer a question submitted by a State Representative (District 35).

    Link: http://www.state.ga.us/ago/read.cgi?sea ... val=U96-22

    Therefore, it is my unofficial opinion that the "public gathering" law, O.C.G.A. § 16-11-127, in addition to the five specific areas, focuses not on the place but the gathering of people, and that the prohibition against carrying a weapon applies to situations "when people are gathered or will be gathered for a particular function and not when a weapon is carried lawfully to a public place, where people may gather."
     

  2. Wiley

    Wiley New Member

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    OK, here's one for you.

    I went to a dog show at Jim Miller Park (Cobb County) over the weekend. Saw no signs prohibiting firearms. No admission was charged. (At some shows a parking fee is charged to recoupe the cost of renting the facility but I have never been to a show that charged admission to enter the show building or facility.)

    According to the UO from the AG I was in violation?

    If I go to the Stock Dog Trials in Dawsonville, at a private farm, I would be in violation?

    This whole 'public gathering' thing is like a multiple guess test with no answer key.
     
  3. ICP_Juggalo

    ICP_Juggalo Active Member

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    Wiley is it an event that the general public can attend? or is it just a get together with other dog owners?
     
  4. Malum Prohibitum

    Malum Prohibitum Moderator Staff Member

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    THis could be fixed by simply striking out 5 words:


    There would still be too many places off limits in this statute, but at least it would be clearer.

    [Ok, so I forgot how to strike out words]

    Edit by Gunstar1:
    Code:
    changed [strike] to <strike>
    Edit by Malum Prohibitum: Ah, ha! That is only the second time someone has shown me that.
     
  5. mzmtg

    mzmtg Active Member

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    We might be going to a movie for the first time in a while tonight. I was thinking that going to the facility wouldn't be off limits (public may gather), but carrying into the actual theater would be off limits (gathered for a particular function).

    Ugh.
     
  6. tony218

    tony218 New Member

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    did the dog show have a beer vender?
    does the theatre sell beer?
    if yes to either then you are or will be in violation.

    which is stupid as hell.
     
  7. Manwell

    Manwell New Member

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    My recommendation is that you don’t do anything that would require you to be frisked by a LEO… keep your weapon concealed; use it if the life of you or a loved one is threatened. Otherwise, enjoy the movie and don’t worry about it!

    Manwell
     
  8. mzmtg

    mzmtg Active Member

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    I never said I was considering disarming...
     
  9. Wiley

    Wiley New Member

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    When I say 'Dog Show' or 'Stock Dog Trial' I'm speaking of an organized, sanctioned (by American Kennel Club (AKC) or other similar group) event. The general public may watch but not participate just by going to the show.
     
  10. Wiley

    Wiley New Member

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    No, darnit. :D And there have been times when I handled I could have used one.
     
  11. ICP_Juggalo

    ICP_Juggalo Active Member

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    Wiley based on the decrpitions you gave for both the "Dog Show" and the "Stock Dog Trial" while contrasting them to the definition of a public gathering by the courts; ...when people are gathered or will be gathered for a particular function and not when a weapon is carried lawfully to a public place, where people may gather. It would appear that the "Dog Show" and "Stock Dog Trial" would fall within that definition and thus be off limits to carry.

    I don't believe, however, this would apply to a movie theater since it is providing a service and not hosting an event.
     
  12. Broadside Bob

    Broadside Bob New Member

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    First, I am not a lawyer, and my opinion would not keep you out of jail even if I were. But, here's how I interpret this (bad) law:

    The emphasis must be on the crowd, not the activity. That is, could the event happen if only one person were there? For the dog show, I would say no. For a movie, I would say yes (not off limits - probably). In the case of the movie, if you are the only person who shows up (I have been to movies where I was one of one or two people there...those movies don't tend to stay in the theaters too long).

    Obviously, if the place is one of those listed in the statute of sells alcohol by the drink, it's a no go.

    My $.02.
     
  13. Wiley

    Wiley New Member

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    ICP_Juggalo,

    I think I have presented the senario badly. I knew I was in violation even though I was there not as a participant. It was all kind of retorical.

    The point is: How can one obey the law when, in each individal case, a trial and appeals are required to define what the law and violation is.

    In your question you asked about a 'get together with other dog owners'. By your answer:
    - I would be violation if some of us had previously agreed to meet at the park at a particular time.
    - I would be in violation had I just been at the park and a group, who had previously agreed to meet, had shown up, without my prior knowledge.

    Now, here are a couple of other retorical thought questions:
    - Would I be in violation if a few of us had arrived at the park, with no communication with the others, and had done some informal, ad hoc, training with our dogs as a group.
    - If I am carrying do I have to leave the park when one or more dog owners arrive with their dogs? Do I tell them to leave because I was there first and I'm legaly carrying.

    When does a group rise to the level of a 'public gathering', when does a 'public gathering' not remain a 'public gathering'? Where is the dividing line? I can't obey the law without knowing the limits.

    One of two things must happen: A legaly precise definition of 'public gathering' must be inserted into the code; Or (the best option) 'public gathering' must be stricken from the code.

    Sorry this is so long. I find the question interesting.
     
  14. Malum Prohibitum

    Malum Prohibitum Moderator Staff Member

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    Yes! Make sure to do it very loudly while waving your gun around in the air!
     
  15. Wiley

    Wiley New Member

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    OK!

    Guess I should use the gold plated one with 'da switch' and stamp my feet in a fit of pique if they don't leave.

    :rotfl:
     
  16. Malum Prohibitum

    Malum Prohibitum Moderator Staff Member

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    Go Wiley, go Wiley! :D


    More from the same AG opinion in the OP:

    In the same vein, this office concluded that a shopping mall is not a public gathering; the fact that people may be present, even in large numbers, does not necessarily constitute a public gathering. 1984 Op. Att'y Gen. U84-37. Of course, portions of a shopping mall leased to a church or to a government agency, or where alcoholic beverages are sold for consumption on the premises, are areas to which the Code Section would apply by its own terms.

    Finally, I would note that a parking area on the grounds of and in close proximity to an area which is a public gathering is a part of the public gathering and is thus subject to the prohibitions of this Code Section. Hubbard v. State, 210 Ga. App. 141 (1993).
     
  17. maddog

    maddog New Member

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    Gotta love it, I have been in several Shopping Malls that actually had bar's or resteraunts that served alcholol ... guess that the entire mall and parking lot is off limits.
     
  18. Gunstar1

    Gunstar1 Administrator

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    Not the entire mall, just the restaurant itself. Most food courts I have been in do not have alcohol for sale, those restaurants are usually in a location all to themselves. So if Sears were the restaurant, only Sears itself is off limits, the rest of the mall is ok.
     
  19. mzmtg

    mzmtg Active Member

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    But the parking lot is off limits since the entire parking lot serves the small off-limits areas as well as the rest of the mall.