The Georgia Constitution provides that “[t]he right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, but the General Assembly shall have power to prescribe the manner in which arms may be borne.”1 In addition, Ga. Code Ann. § 1-2-6(a)(9) includes “the right to keep and bear arms” within a general list of citizens’ rights.

In the 1911 case Strickland v. State, the Supreme Court of Georgia determined that a statute prohibiting the carrying of a handgun without a license did not violate the state’s right to bear arms provision.2 The court held that the test for whether a law regulating firearms violates this constitutional provision is “whether the particular regulation involved is legitimate and reasonably within the police power, or whether it is arbitrary, and, under the name of regulation, amounts in effect to a deprivation of the constitutional right.”3 After reviewing the intent of the statute, as well as judicial interpretations of similar statutory provisions in other states, the court found that the statute at issue was “not so arbitrary or unreasonable as to amount, in effect, to a prohibition of the right to bear arms, or an infringement of that right as protected by the constitution.”4

In Carson v. State, a 1978 case, the Supreme Court of Georgia rejected a state right to bear arms challenge to a statute prohibiting the possession of a sawed-off shotgun.5 The court reaffirmed the test set forth in Strickland and found that the omission in the state constitution of the phrase “[a] well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State” (which appears in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution) did not affect the constitutionality of the statute, because it “can be sustained as a legitimate exercise of the police power of the state.”6

Five years later, in Landers v. State, the Supreme Court of Georgia rejected a state right to bear arms challenge to a statute prohibiting the possession of a firearm by a felon.7 Relying on Strickland and Carson, the court held that the statute was “a reasonable regulation authorized by the police power and thus not violative of our Constitution.”8

More recently, in 2009, in Moore v. Moore-McKinney, the Court of Appeals of Georgia rejected a state right to bear arms challenge to a court order prohibiting the possession of weapons by either parent when the parents were exchanging their children.9 The court stated that possession of a firearm was “not restricted except in the context of a narrowly tailored condition of visitation justified by the evidence.”10

Finally, in the 2013 case Hertz v. Bennett, the Supreme Court of Georgia examined whether denying a convicted felon a license to carry violated his rights under the Georgia Constitution.11 In finding that it did not, the court found that “Hertz acknowledged that he used an illegal weapon to commit forcible felonies that endangered the lives of other persons. Under these circumstances, we hold that denying him a license to carry a weapon outside his home, car, and place of business does not violate his state constitutional right to bear arms in Article I, Section I, Paragraph VIII of the Georgia Constitution. Therefore, this provision is constitutional as applied to him.”12

Notes
  1. Ga. Const. art. I, § I, para. VIII. ⤴︎
  2. 72 S.E. 260 (Ga. 1911). ⤴︎
  3. Id. at 263. ⤴︎
  4. Id. at 264. ⤴︎
  5. 247 S.E.2d 68, 72-73 (Ga. 1978). ⤴︎
  6. Id. at 73. ⤴︎
  7. 299 S.E.2d 707 (Ga. 1983). ⤴︎
  8. Id. at 710. ⤴︎
  9. 678 S.E.2d 152, 160 (Ga. Ct. App. 2009). ⤴︎
  10. Id. ⤴︎
  11. 751 S.E.2d 90 (Ga. 2013). ⤴︎
  12. Id. at 96. ⤴︎