Background Checks in Georgia

Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)

Until 2005, Georgia was a “point of contact” for the NICS, and firearms dealers had to conduct the background check required by federal law through the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. In 2005, Georgia repealed that part of the law, and now all firearm transfers by licensed dealers are processed through the FBI.1 Nevertheless, Georgia law provides that all transfers or purchases of firearms conducted by an importer, manufacturer or dealer licensed pursuant to federal or Georgia law are subject to NICS.2 Georgia law also requires the Georgia Crime Information Center to provide to NICS all necessary criminal history information and wanted person records, and information concerning persons who have been involuntarily hospitalized, in order to complete a NICS check.3 State administrative regulations also now recognize that federal law requires federal firearms licensees to contact NICS before transferring a firearm.4

Federal law does not require dealers to conduct a background check if a firearm purchaser presents a state permit to purchase or possess firearms that meets certain conditions.5 As a result, concealed weapons permit holders in Georgia are exempt from the federal background check requirement.6 (Note, however, that people who have become prohibited from possessing firearms may continue to hold state permits to purchase or permit firearms – and pass background checks – if the state fails to remove these permits in a timely fashion.)

See the section below for information regarding the Retention of Sales / Background Check Records in Georgia.

Georgia does not require private sellers (sellers who are not licensed dealers) to initiate a background check when transferring a firearm. See our Private Sales policy summary.

See our Background Checks policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. Ga. Code Ann. §§ 16-11-171, 16-11-172; Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 140-2-.17. ⤴︎
  2. See Ga. Code Ann. §§ 16-11-171, 16-11-172. ⤴︎
  3. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-172; see also Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 140-2-.17. ⤴︎
  4. Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 140-2-.17. ⤴︎
  5. Federal law exempts persons who have been issued state permits to purchase or possess firearms from background checks if those permits were issued: 1) within the previous five years in the state in which the transfer is to take place; and 2) after an authorized government official has conducted a background investigation, including a search of the NICS database, to verify that possession of a firearm would not be unlawful. 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(3), 27 C.F.R. § 478.102(d). ⤴︎
  6. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Brady Law: Permanent Brady Permit Chart (Jun. 10, 2014), at https://www.atf.gov/rules-and-regulations/permanent-brady-permit-chart ⤴︎

Child Access Prevention in Georgia

Georgia prohibits parents and legal guardians from allowing persons under age 18 to possess a handgun.1 A parent or legal guardian of a minor is criminally liable if he or she knows of the minor’s unlawful possession of a handgun and fails to make reasonable efforts to prevent it.2

A separate provision of Georgia law prohibits any parent or legal guardian from intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly furnishing, or permitting a minor to possess, a handgun, if the parent or legal guardian is aware of a substantial risk that the minor will use the handgun to commit a felony.3 This criminal liability also attaches if the parent or legal guardian, who is aware of a substantial risk that the minor will use the handgun to commit a felony, fails to make reasonable efforts to prevent commission of the offense by the minor.4

A parent or legal guardian is also criminally liable if he or she furnishes a handgun to, or permits possession of a handgun by, any minor who has been convicted of a forcible felony or forcible misdemeanor, or who has been adjudicated delinquent for an offense which would constitute a forcible felony or forcible misdemeanor if such minor were an adult.5

Georgia law does not penalize a person who negligently stores a firearm, even if a minor gains access to it.

See our Child Access Prevention policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. Ga. Code Ann. §§ 16-11-101.1(c)(1), 16-11-132. ⤴︎
  2. Ga. Code Ann. §§ 16-11-101.1(c)(1). These provisions do not apply to a minor: 1) Attending a hunter education course or a firearms safety course; 2) Engaging in practice in the use of a firearm or target shooting at an established range authorized by the governing body of the jurisdiction where such range is located; 3) Engaging in an organized competition involving the use of a firearm or participating in or practicing for a performance by an organized group under 26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(3) which uses firearms as a part of such performance; 4) Hunting or fishing pursuant to a valid license if such person has in his or her possession a valid hunting or fishing license if required; is engaged in legal hunting or fishing; has permission of the owner of the land on which the activities are being conducted; and the pistol or revolver, whenever loaded, is carried only in an open and fully exposed manner; 5) Traveling to or from any of the aforementioned activities, if the pistol or revolver is not loaded; 6) Who is on his or her parent’s, legal guardian’s, or grandparent’s real property and who has the permission of his or her parent, legal guardian, or grandparent to possess the handgun; or 7) At his or her residence and possesses a handgun while exercising rights authorized in Ga. Code Ann. §§ 16-3-21 or 16-3-23 (provisions regarding the justified use of force against another) with the permission of his or her parent or legal guardian. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-132(c). ⤴︎
  3. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-101.1(c)(2). ⤴︎
  4. Id. ⤴︎
  5. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-101.1(c)(3). ⤴︎

Concealed Weapons Permitting in Georgia

See our Carrying Concealed Weapons policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

In 2010, Georgia significantly loosened its law limiting the manner in which “weapons carry” license holders may carry handguns. Georgia now allows the carrying of a firearm by any person who:

  • Has a valid “weapons carry” license and is carrying a handgun (regardless of whether the handgun is concealed);
  • Is on his or her property or inside his or her home, motor vehicle, or place of business;
  • Is carrying a long gun, even if the person does not have a license, provided that, if the long gun is loaded, it is carried openly;
  • Is carrying a handgun enclosed in a case and unloaded, even if the person does not have a license;
  • Is eligible for a weapons carry license (even if the person does not actually have a license) and is transporting a firearm in a passenger motor vehicle, provided that a private property owner may forbid possession of a firearm on his or her property; or
  • Is licensed to carry a handgun or weapon in any other state whose laws recognize and give effect to a Georgia weapons carry license, while the licensee is not a resident of Georgia, provided that such licensee carries his or her weapon in compliance with Georgia law; or
  • Has a valid hunting or fishing license, or who is otherwise legally engaged in hunting or fishing or sport shooting.1

Georgia is a “shall issue” state, meaning that a probate court judge must issue a “weapons carry” license if the applicant meets certain qualifications.2 The probate court judge must issue a license “unless facts establishing ineligibility have been reported or unless the judge determines such applicant has not met all the qualifications, is not of good moral character, or has failed to comply with all the requirements” contained in Georgia law.3

Applicants may apply for a “weapons carry” license to the probate court judge in the applicant’s county of residence.4 In 2010, Georgia loosened its eligibility requirements for licenses. Now, licenses will not be issued to any person:

  • Under 21 years of age;5
  • Who has been convicted of a felony and has not been pardoned;
  • Against whom proceedings are pending for a felony;
  • Who is a fugitive from justice;
  • Who is prohibited from possessing a firearm pursuant to federal law;
  • Who was convicted of an offense arising out of the unlawful manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance or other dangerous drug;
  • Who has had his or her weapons carry license revoked within three years of the date of his or her application;
  • Who was, during the five years immediately preceding the application, under restraint or supervision resulting from a conviction for carrying a weapon without a weapons carry license, carrying a weapon or long gun in an unauthorized location, or a misdemeanor involving the use or possession of a controlled substance; or
  • Who has been hospitalized as an inpatient in a mental hospital or alcohol or drug treatment center within the five years preceding the application, although the judge retains discretion to issue a license to the individual in some circumstances.6

For purposes of these prohibitions, “convicted” means a plea of guilty, a finding of guilt, or the acceptance of a plea of nolo contendere.7

Every weapons license holder is required to have his or her valid weapons carry license in his or her immediate possession at all times when carrying a weapon, or if such person is exempt from having a weapons carry license, he or she must have proof of his or her exemption in his or her immediate possession at all times when carrying a weapon.8 However, a person convicted of a violation of this requirement may not be fined more than $10.00 for that violation if he or she produces his or her weapons carry license in court, or produces proof of his or her exemption, provided that it was valid at the time of his or her arrest.9

Application Process

Within five business days following the receipt of an weapons carry application, the judge of the probate court is required to direct the law enforcement agency to request a criminal history records check from the Georgia Crime Information Center and Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as a background check using the FBI’s NICS database, for purposes of determining the suitability of the applicant. 10  The law enforcement agency must then report to the judge of the probate court within 30 days, by telephone and in writing, of any findings relating to the applicant which may bear on his or her eligibility for a weapons carry license or renewal license under Georgia law, although a report is not required if no such derogatory information is found on the applicant.11  The law enforcement agency must also return the application directly to the judge of the probate court within such time period.12 Not later than ten days after the judge of the probate court receives the report from the law enforcement agency concerning the suitability of the applicant for a license, the judge of the probate court shall issue the applicant a license or renewal license to carry any weapon unless facts establishing ineligibility have been reported or unless the judge determines such applicant has not met all the qualifications, is not of good moral character, or has failed to comply with any of the requirements contained in Georgia law.13

Petition for Relief from License Prohibition

Georgia has enacted a procedure for individuals prohibited from obtaining weapons licenses as a result of being hospitalized in any mental hospital or alcohol or drug treatment center, or being adjudicated mentally incompetent to stand trail, or adjudicated not guilty by reason of insanity in a criminal trial to petition for relief from the prohibition.14  Such persons may petition the court in which such adjudication, hospitalization, or treatment proceedings, if any, occurred.15 A copy of the petition for relief must be served as notice upon the opposing civil party or the prosecuting attorney for the state, as the case may be, or their successors, who appeared in the underlying case.16  Within 30 days of the receipt of such petition, the court is required to hold a hearing on the petition for relief, in which the prosecuting attorney for the state may represent the interests of the state.17

At the hearing, the court shall receive and consider evidence in a closed proceeding concerning:

  • The circumstances which caused the person to be subject to the weapons license prohibition;
  • The person’s mental health and criminal history records, if any;18
  • The person’s reputation, which shall be established through character witness statements, testimony, or other character evidence; and
  • Changes in the person’s condition or circumstances since his or her adjudication, hospitalization, or treatment proceedings.19

The judge must issue an order of his or her decision within 30 days after the hearing.20 The court is required to grant the petition for relief if the judge finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the person will not likely act in a manner dangerous to public safety in carrying a weapon and that granting the relief will not be contrary to the public interest. ((Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(b.1)(3).  A record shall be kept of the hearing; provided, however, that such records shall remain confidential and be disclosed only to a court or to the parties in the event of an appeal. Any appeal of the court’s ruling on the petition for relief shall be de novo review. Id.)) If the court grants the petition for relief, the clerk of the court shall report the order to the Georgia Crime Information Center immediately, and in no case later than ten business days after the date of such order.21 If the court denies the petition, the person may not petition for relief more than once every two years.22 Additionally, a person who has been hospitalized as an inpatient may not petition for relief under this process prior to being discharged from such treatment.23

Firearm Safety Training

Georgia does not require applicants to undergo firearm safety training or otherwise demonstrate competence with a firearm.

Duration & Renewal

Georgia “weapons carry” licenses are valid for five years.24 Renewal licenses are also valid for five-year periods, and are subject to the same requirements as an original license, except that fingerprinting is not required for applicants seeking temporary renewal licenses or renewal licenses.25 If less than 90 days remain before expiration of a license or the license expired within the last 30 days, the license holder may apply for a temporary renewal license, which expires in 90 days.26

Disclosure or Use of Information

The Georgia rules governing the inspection of public records do not apply to any application submitted to or any permanent records maintained by a probate court judge relating to “weapons carry” licenses, or pursuant to any other requirement for maintaining records relative to the possession of firearms.27 Law enforcement agencies and probate court judges may obtain records relating to licensing and possession of firearms as provided by law.28

In addition, license application forms must “be designed to elicit information from the applicant pertinent to his or her eligibility” for a license, and shall not “require data which is nonpertinent or irrelevant such as serial numbers or other identification capable of being used as a de facto registration of firearms owned by the applicant.”29

Reciprocity

Georgia law allows a person licensed to carry a handgun or weapon in another state whose laws recognize and give effect to a Georgia weapons carry license to carry a handgun in Georgia, but only while the licensee is not a resident of Georgia.30 The licensee must carry the handgun in compliance with Georgia laws.31 The Georgia Attorney General is required to create and maintain on the Department of Law’s website a list of those states whose laws recognize and give effect to Georgia carry licenses.

An individual who is licensed to carry in another state and becomes a resident of Georgia is allowed to carry pursuant to his or her out-of-state license for no more than 90 days so long as the individual applies for a Georgia concealed carry license as soon as practicable. The licensee must carry the handgun in compliance with Georgia laws.32

Notes
  1. Ga. Code Ann. §§ 16-11-126(a)-(f). ⤴︎
  2. Ga. Code Ann. §§ 16-11-129(a), (d)(4). ⤴︎
  3. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(d)(4). ⤴︎
  4. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(a). ⤴︎
  5. Georgia law provides an exception for a person who is at least 18 years old who provides proof that he or she has completed basic training in the U.S. Armed Forces and is either actively serving or has been honorably discharged from such service. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(b)(2)(A). ⤴︎
  6. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(b)(2). ⤴︎
  7. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(b)(1)(C). ⤴︎
  8. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-137(a). ⤴︎
  9. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-137(c). ⤴︎
  10. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(d)(1), (2). ⤴︎
  11. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(d)(4). ⤴︎
  12. Id. ⤴︎
  13. Id. ⤴︎
  14. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(b.1). ⤴︎
  15. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(b.1)(1). ⤴︎
  16. Id. ⤴︎
  17. Id. ⤴︎
  18. The judge of the court may require any such person to sign a waiver authorizing the superintendent of any mental hospital or treatment center to make to the judge a recommendation regarding whether such person is a threat to the safety of others. When such a waiver is required by the judge, the applicant shall pay a fee of $3.00 for reimbursement of the cost of making such a report by the mental health hospital, alcohol or drug treatment center, or the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, which the judge shall remit to the hospital, center, or department. ⤴︎
  19. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(b.1)(2). ⤴︎
  20. Id. ⤴︎
  21. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(b.1)(4). ⤴︎
  22. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(b.1)(5). ⤴︎
  23. Id. ⤴︎
  24. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(a). ⤴︎
  25. Id, Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(c). ⤴︎
  26. See Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129 for further information related to license renewals. ⤴︎
  27. Ga. Code Ann. § 50-18-72(a)(40). ⤴︎
  28. Id. ⤴︎
  29. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-129(a). ⤴︎
  30. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-126(e). ⤴︎
  31. Id. ⤴︎
  32. Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-126(e)(1)(b)(2). ⤴︎

Dealer Regulations in Georgia

Federal law requires firearms dealers to obtain a license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), although resource limitations prevent the ATF from properly overseeing all its licensees.

In Georgia, any person, firm, retail dealer, wholesale dealer, pawnbroker, or corporation who sells, disposes of, or offers for sale or causes or permits to be sold, disposed of, or offered for sale any pistol or revolver or short-barreled firearm of less than 15 inches in length, whether the firearm is the seller’s own property or whether the person selling the firearm is an agent or employee of the owner, must obtain a license from the Georgia Department of Public Safety permitting the sale of such firearms.1 The application must be accompanied by a sworn affidavit stating that the applicant is a United States citizen, is at least age 21, and has not been convicted of a felony.2 Licenses are valid for one year.3 There is an annual license fee of $25 for the owner of any sales establishment, and an annual employee license fee of $3.4 The application must include a copy of a current federal firearms dealer license.5 In 2010, Georgia repealed a requirement that the application must also be accompanied by a bond for the sum of $1,000 conditioned upon the faithful performance of the requirements of Georgia law.

The above-mentioned requirements, as well as the other dealer licensing regulations contained in Georgia law, do not apply to or prohibit the casual sale of firearms between individuals or bona fide gun collectors.6

Licensees must keep the license itself conspicuously displayed on their business premises.7

For information about the Georgia laws:

• Requiring federally licensed dealers to conduct background checks on firearm purchasers, see the Georgia Background Checks section.

• Requiring dealers to maintain records of sales, see the Georgia Retention of Sales / Background Check Records section.

• Applicable to both licensed and private firearm sellers, see the Georgia Private Sales section.

See our Dealer Regulations for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. Ga. Code Ann. § 43-16-2. ⤴︎
  2. Ga. Code Ann. § 43-16-3; Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 570-4-.06. ⤴︎
  3. Ga. Code Ann § 43-16-5. ⤴︎
  4. Id. ⤴︎
  5. Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 570-4-.06. ⤴︎
  6. Ga. Code Ann. § 43-16-2. ⤴︎
  7. Ga. Code Ann. § 43-16-7; Ga. Comp. R. & Regs. 570-4-.02. ⤴︎

Disarming Prohibited Persons in Georgia

Georgia law declares any weapon the possession or carrying of which constitutes a crime or delinquent act to be contraband and forfeited.1 Georgia law also describes the fate of a confiscated weapon when a defendant is found guilty of the illegal possession or carrying of the weapon.2 However, Georgia has no law requiring the removal of firearms when a person initially becomes prohibited from possessing them.

Notes
  1. Ga. Code Ann. § 17-5-51. ⤴︎
  2. Ga. Code Ann. § 17-5-52. ⤴︎

Domestic Violence & Firearms in Georgia

Georgia law does not:

• Prohibit individuals convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors from possessing firearms or ammunition (unlike federal law);

• Prohibit individuals subject to domestic violence protective orders from possessing firearms or ammunition (unlike federal law);

• Require courts to notify domestic abusers when they become prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition under federal law;

• Require the surrender of firearms or ammunition by domestic abusers who have become prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition under federal law; or

• Explicitly authorize or require the removal of firearms or ammunition at the scene of a domestic violence incident.

See our Domestic Violence and Firearms policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.