The impact of Georgia's new gun laws on hunters and shooters

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On July 1, House Bill 60, signed by Gov. Nathan Deal (R) back in April went into effect. The bill has mainly gained attention due to its enhancements of concealed carry rights across the state. However, it includes some interesting changes to hunters in the state as well as sets up a new set of legal challenges that some are taking to court already.

What is it?

The bill, which faced an uphill fight from Democrats in both the state house and senate, is a 29-page (pdf) enhancement to the state's gun laws. According to the NRA, the bill does the following:

  • Removes fingerprinting for renewal of Weapons Carry Licenses (WCL).
  • Prohibits the state from creating and maintaining a database of WCL holders.
  • Creates an absolute defense for the legal use of deadly force in the face of a violent attack.
  • Lowers the age to obtain a concealed WCL from 21 to 18 for active duty military with specific training.
  • Repeals the unnecessary and duplicative state-required license for a firearms dealer, instead requiring only a Federal Firearms License (FFL).
  • Prohibits a ban on firearms in public housing, ensuring that the right to self-defense should not be infringed based on where one calls home.
  • Codifies the ability to legally carry, with a WCL, in sterile/non-secure areas of airports.
  • Requires reporting of those persons who have been involuntarily hospitalized or have been adjudicated mentally deficient to the NICS system while also providing the ability for relief through an application process to the court system allowing for restoration of gun rights.
  • Protects the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners from being restricted or infringed by executive authority under a declared state of emergency.
  • Strengthens current firearms preemption statutes through further clarification of the regulatory authority of local governments, excluding firearm discharge ordinances.
  • Removes the sweeping restrictions on legally carrying a firearm with a WCL in bars, leaving this decision to private property owners.
  • Allows for churches to opt-in for legal carry with only a civil penalty of a $100 if a person happens to carry into a prohibited church unknowingly.
While all of this is great and some of it may pertain to you (after all, many of the 600,000 Georgia residents who have a WCL are also hunters!), there are also a few changes that relate directly to hunters in the state.

Effects on hunting regs in the state

The most important change to the law for Georgia sportsmen includes the now-lawful use of firearm sound suppressors while hunting. The new regs allow that, as long as you are on private lands that are authorized for you to hunt on (if you are not the landowner) or on public lands designated by the GDNR as being open for hunting, you are good to go.

The impact of Georgia

Now if you violate the statute and hunt on closed land or trespass on private land, or spotlight, or hunt out of season with a suppressor, the man will jerk your license for three years-- plus you can be assured of some extra fines, fees, etc. on top of that.

So keep it legal out there.

This is huge for the state, as suppressor sales nationwide have ballooned some 800 percent in the past decade or so. According to the American Suppressor Association, some 39 states allow the ownership of registered suppressors while 33 (now including Georgia!) allow hunting.

The impact of Georgia

Of course, you cannot just grab an old oilcan and head for the management area-- you have to have a legally registered (with the ATF) suppressor complete with the $200 tax stamp. (Note: you have to have the original tax stamp and Form 4 with you while hunting, so you may want to bring it in a sealed sandwich bag or dry box)

The impact of Georgia
(Photo credit: Oleg Volk)

To download the current 2014-15 season dates and limits click here.

In addition, GDNR is releasing the new and updated rulebook for this season on August 1, so be sure to check their site for that in a few weeks.

Currently, at least according to HB60, the suppressor statute isn't limited to pests, varmints, or large game, so as long as you follow the already caliber-specific limits for game in the state (i.e. no large than .22 for small game, larger for deer, bear and feral hogs) you should be good to go. But of course, check the regs first.

More fights to come

As soon as HB60 went into effect, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers came out, (along with others) to say that guns can't be carried on CoE land even with the new laws. With this, Georgia Carry, a pro-second amendment group in the state, filed suit against the Corps in federal court.

What this could mean down the line for hunters remains to be seen as it mainly involves concealed carry for self-protection, not hunting-- but keep watching this space for more news as we get it! You never know.

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