I am writing in response to the Snellville Patch’s article reporting on the June 11, 2012 Snellville City Council meeting specifically the work session agenda regarding firearms in Briscoe Park. I understand that there have been several questions asked since this article was published and would like to take an opportunity to try and clarify some of the confusion.
First and foremost, this was an agenda item on the mayor and council work session for discussion purposes only. No action has been proposed in the City of Snellville in relation to firearms. The cities of Gwinnett County have an alliance called the Gwinnett Municipal Association where we share information with fellow cities.
As mayor, I received an e-mail a few weeks ago about a firearm issue in a city park in another Gwinnett city. I was sent this courtesy e-mail in case our city encountered any similar issues. I placed the matter on the work session agenda to simply see if there was a consensus of council to direct our city attorney to provide us with further information. There was.
Our city attorney has been asked to review the existing state laws on having a firearm in the city park, Briscoe, and to review the incident of what happen in a corresponding Gwinnett city. The city attorney has been asked to report back to the council at our July 9 work session, so that the council can determine if this is a matter that needs to be addressed by the city. We, the mayor and council, have not proposed any gun bans in the city of Snellville or in Briscoe Park. As a result of this incident in a sister city we have just asked for more information.
The existing firearms law in Georgia is ambiguous (O.C.G.A. 16-11-126). As an attorney I have had experience defending client’s rights to carry arms and have myself been confused with the current law. Any one in Georgia may carry a firearm on their person if they are on their own property, or inside their own home, motor vehicle or place of business. No carrying permit is required for this.
However, changes to this law that went into effect in 2011 allow a person to carry a firearm in certain locations including public parks as long as they have a carrying permit. Georgia law defines public parks as any land under control of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. As a city-owned park, Briscoe is not under the control of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and therefore may not fall within the state law definition of a public park.
Therefore, the question is can someone carry a weapon inside Briscoe Park and if they can do they need a carrying permit and in what manner can they carry it? These are the questions that we have asked our city attorney to review.
Having clarity on this issue will be beneficial to our citizens, our park staff and our police department. I do not believe that anyone on council is opposed to our Constitutional right to carry arms, but we as a city want to make sure that everyone including the government is clear on the law and that we do what is in the best interest of our citizens.
Thank you keeping all of our citizens informed.