A not-guilty verdict in the Trayvon Martin shooting death in Florida has many gun owners in Dawson County asking questions about Georgias Stand Your Ground law.
On Thursday, Aug. 22, Sheriff Billy Carlisle explained the law to members of the Dawson County Rotary Club during its weekly breakfast meeting.
I want you to remember two words forceful felony, said Carlisle. If you are in danger of being harmed or killed, you have a right to stand your ground and defend yourself.
By definition, a forceful felony is, any felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any person.
Carlisle said if a gun owner is following the law and injures or kills someone, he or she is immune from civil liability.
But, they can still be sued, he said.
In 2012, Dawson County issued 590 gun carry permits. To date this year, 600 gun permits have been issued. The cost for a gun permit in Dawson County is $74.25, according to Carlisle.
We have already issued more permits in the first eight months of this year than all of last year.
Signed into law in 2006 by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue, Senate Bill 386, Georgias Stand Your Ground law, has multiple layers, and at times it creates confusion. The bill refers to six different code sections, according to Carlisle.
If your home is invaded, you have to believe that person is coming to hurt you or your family, said Carlisle. You can shoot them, but if you come home, and that person runs out the door, you cant run after him and shoot him because hes no longer a threat.
Carlisle said the spirit of revenge will never be justified.
Its got to be self-defense.
Carlisle also explained that gun owners with carry permits can bring guns into any business in Dawson County unless the owner asks the person to leave.
The business owner, or a property owner, can also post a sign on the door that says, no firearms permitted and that person can put their gun in the car, and come back in, the sheriff said.
Public buildings, schools, and school property, however, are governed differently.
Dont come into my jail or the courthouse with a gun, said Carlsle. Well ask you to take it out.
The law lists eight places where guns cannot be taken -- government buildings, prisons and jails, nuclear power plants, bars without the owners permission, state mental institutions, within 150 feet of a polling place and places of worship.
He also pointed out that a gun owner with a carry permit may drive onto school property with a gun, but under no circumstances, may carry it into the school building. It must be left in the car.
Its okay while picking up or dropping off your children, he said. But if you walk into the building, our officers are trained to confront a person with a firearm.
Rotarian and First Citizens Bank of Georgia employee Will Wade asked if guns are allowed in banks.
Most bank security guards will confront someone with a gun in a bank and ask them to leave, said Wade. People need to use common sense.
Carlisle reiterated that the business owner has a right to ask the person carrying a gun to leave.
David Jordan, Rotarian and pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church of Dawsonville, lost two friends when a gunman opened fire at Wedgewood Baptist Church in Ft. Worth, Tex., on Sept. 15, 1999. Jordan was a member of the church at the time, but did not attend that days youth rally service.
Seven people--four teens and three adults--died. Seven others were wounded.
I thought Sheriff Carlisle did a good job stating what the law is without endorsing any position, said Jordan. I appreciated what a good job he did. My personal opinion is I dont want guns in our church (Grace Presbyterian). I cannot live my life based on fear. Gun advocates always sound afraid. Try getting rid of that fear and maybe you can respond in love or peace.
Protecting your vehicle is also subject to Georgias Stand Your Ground laws.
If someone is stealing your car and youre not in it, you cant use deadly force, said Carlisle. But, if you are in the car, and theyre trying to car-jack you, then you have a right to protect your property.
Other points Carlisle touched on include protecting a third party or someone elses property.
If a male is beating up on a female and you want to intervene on her behalf, youre in a stand your ground situation, he said. You have a right to defend that third person.
And if neighbors give someone permission to protect their property while they are away, and someone breaks in, then the Stand Your Ground law applies, Carlisle said. But only if you are inside the home and are being threatened.
Gun laws, however, are different on Georgias Corp of Engineers properties.
...Only law enforcement officers are allowed to carry firearms at Lake Sidney Lanier, said Nicholas Baggett, natural resource manager of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
According to Baggett, the only exception is for Corps USACE hunting permits for waterfowl.
Separately, firearms may be carried in any National Park Service or National Wildlife Refuge Systems, provided the individual is not otherwise prohibited by law from possessing the firearm and provided the possession is in compliance with the law of the state in which the park is located. The law became effective Feb. 22, 2010, under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Carlisle encouraged Dawson County residents to read SB 386, and to research the judicial decisions and study the case laws.
Even if you feel youre within the law, he said, you can expect to be brought in and questioned until law enforcement can determine what happened.