The law allows licensed gun holders to carry weapons inside bars, government buildings, places of worship and school board meetings.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced he would use a provision in the bill that makes it possible for governments to regulate firearms in their buildings if screened by security personnel.
Reed said in a statement Tuesday he will block anyone carrying a firearm from entering a government building in Atlanta by means of either a metal detector or security guard, as the law provides.
Even though the law is already in effect, officials from the county, the city of Marietta and the Cobb Board of Education all said it was premature to take a stance on the law. Officials from all three entities said they are still planning how to react.
State Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell), who voted against the bill, said he is concerned because it would allow licensed gun holders to carry their firearms into
places most people wouldn’t usually expect, such as libraries and recreation centers. Wilkerson voiced those concerns in emails he sent to county commissioners and school board members on Wednesday.
“It is my belief, as well as people I have spoken to in my area, that places where children frequently gather should continue to prohibit weapons,” Wilkerson said. “I am referring to government buildings such as local recreation centers and libraries.”
State Sen. Judson Hill (R-east Cobb), who voted for the bill, said while the law allows licensed gun holders to carry their weapons into government buildings, he didn’t think anyone should be concerned about their presence.
“Someone who has a conceal carry permit has already been screened, fingerprinted and background-checked, and they have a right to carry it into any of the buildings the law provides,” Hill said. “I don’t look at them as being suspect or suspicious, just that they want to exercise their Second Amendment right.”
Cobb County’s reaction
With the exception of the judicial complex and county jail, the county government does not screen for firearms people who enter its buildings, spokesman Robert Quigley said.
Wilkerson said he wants to see a response from the county.
“What I would like to see the county commissioners do is address whether they’re going to do something similar to what Mayor Reed has done,” Wilkerson said.
Hill, who chairs Cobb’s legislative delegation, said local officials should make their own decisions on whether to implement a screening process.
“I’m not elected at that local level, so I defer to the local official to act on behalf of their constituents,” Hill said.
Cobb Board of Commissioners Chairman Tim Lee said his board would discuss the matter in the coming months.
“We are working with our public safety and legal staff to determine the best way to handle this newly created issue,” Lee said.
Commissioner Helen Goreham said she needed more information.
“It’s premature for me to comment on this,” Goreham said. “I haven’t done any research on the gun bill and the county’s application of the bill at this time to take a stance on it.”
School board’s reaction
Similarly, Kathleen Angelucci, chair of the Cobb Board of Education, said her board would discuss the issue at its next work session July 16.
The new gun law allows anyone attending a school board meeting to carry a firearm if they have a permit, Wilkerson said.
But, if the board implemented a screening process, which could be either a metal detector or a search by security staff, it could prevent people from carrying guns into board meetings.
“There has been discussion with the superintendent and the district attorney about implementation issues,” Angelucci said.
Wilkerson said he thinks parents would be shocked to see someone carrying a gun at a school board meeting.
“I don’t think it’s right for the parents of the children that may want to see someone get an award for doing good in school while someone sits in the back row with a firearm,” Wilkerson said.
Randy Scamihorn, the vice chair of the school board, said he is open to discussion, but would not want anyone attending a school board meeting to be searched.
“I’m always open to ideas to help improve the safety of our students, but yet not make our schools a prison,” Scamihorn said. “I don’t believe I would be in favor of a police officer searching individuals.”
The Marietta city government does not screen anyone who enters City Hall, and it is unclear whether they will implement a screening system now.
City Council members discussed the law at a June 25 committee meeting, but no one suggested using a screening system.
The council only discussed a provision of the law that does not allow anyone to ask a gun holder to show his or her permit on the spot.
“If somebody comes in here packing, we can’t ask them if they have a license,” said Councilman Grif Chalfant.
The council intends to come up with a policy on the new law at its July 9 meeting.
Wilkerson suggested any funds the government would need to implement screenings could come from a proposed 1 percent special purpose local option sales tax voters may consider in November.
But Lee said the funds from the SPLOST would not be ready in time to react to the new gun law.
“The proposed 2016 SPLOST program is two years away from being implemented, but the next legislative session starts in January. I expect the legislature will address any concerns with the new law then,” Lee said.