Despite the passage and implementation today of Georgia House Bill 60, ordinary armed Augustans still can’t carry their weapons, concealed or otherwise, into the city’s municipal building, courthouse or sheriff’s office.
“As long as the building is protected by security, the permit holder still cannot bring a weapon in,” said Lt. Bryan Patterson of the Richmond County Marshal’s Office, which handles security at the Augusta Municipal Building.
The bill opened the door for anyone with a weapons carry license to enter any government building with a weapon, so long as the building doesn’t have a security checkpoint where visitors are screened for firearms.
If it does, however, as is the case at the Augusta Municipal Building – which doubles as a “courthouse annex,” Augusta-Richmond County Judicial Center and John Ruffin Courthouse, and the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office – visitors cannot be charged with unlawfully carrying a weapon as long as they notify law enforcement.
In addition, visitors must follow instructions for temporarily removing, securing and storing the weapon, according to Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens.
For Augusta Recreation, Parks and Facilities visitors the rules aren’t changing, either, and permit holders are allowed to carry weapons on city property.
“The only place guns specifically can be prevented is where there is literally a guard at the door,” said Recreation Director Bob Levine. “We don’t have that situation at any of our facilities.”
So visitors with weapons carry licenses may continue to carry at city community centers, pools and parks, as well as the Augusta Canal Authority National Heritage Area, where new signs remind visitors about another law that remains in effect – visitors are forbidden to discharge weapons, according to authority marketing manager Rebecca Rogers.
Second Amendment activists applaud the new law’s attempt to “give rights back to people that had been restricted,” including in government buildings and bill-paying sites but many of its nuances remain misunderstood, said Brad Owens, who works for large local gun dealer Sidney’s Department Store.
“It’s being spun in every direction,” including as justification for costly security checkpoints at buildings, such as the Municipal Building, that might not be necessary or effective, Owens said. “The bottom line is if the municipal government chooses to have a secure area, they can have it.”