Have you left your bag of firearms unattended?

Happy July 4th!!

Are you flying over the holiday? If you’re passing through Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Int’l Airport, you’ll need to leave your “arms” at home. For now at least. Sound ridiculous? To GeorgiaCarry.Org, Inc. and Georgia Representative Timothy Bearden (R – Villa Rica) it does. So the organization and Mr. Bearden have sued the airport, the City of Atlanta, the mayor, and the city’s general aviation manager (Benjamin DeCosta). The allegations? According to the complaint:

Until July 1, 2008, O .C .G.A. § 16-12-122 through § 16-12-127 generally prohibited carrying a firearm in the Airport, with a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a $15,000 fine .

Beginning July 1, 2008, the law in Georgia was changed by House Bill 89, an act of the General Assembly signed by the Governor, permitting people to whom a Georgia firearms license (“GFL”) has been issued to carry a firearm in”public transportation,” notwithstanding the provisions of O .C .G .A. § 16-12-122 through § 16-12-127.

From the complaint we learn that Mr. Bearden is the author of HB 89, and, apparently, he has exchanged words with Mr. DeCosta via the Atlanta Journal Constitution. I’m not sure whether carrying a gun in the airport is vital to Mr. Bearden’s way of life. Maybe it doesn’t matter, legally speaking. In the complaint he alleges:

Plaintiff Bearden is a visitor and user of the Airport facilities . He would like to exercise his right to carry a firearm while in the nonsterile areas of the Airport, but he is in fear of detention, search, arrest, and prosecution for doing so.

Plaintiff Bearden intended to visit the Airport on July 1, 2008 while legally armed, but he was deterred from doing so by Defendant DeCosta’s specifically targeting Plaintiff Bearden for arrest.

True, everyone who goes to the airport is not a passenger. I’ve done business meetings at skymile clubs, picked up (and dropped off) hundreds of guests, friends and family, and I’ve even gone to the airport just to watch the airplanes. Nerd alert. Still, this is a pretty volatile location to launch a Second Amendment challenge. The guts of the complaint:

O.C.G.A. § 16-11-173 expressly prohibits Defendants from regulating the carrying of firearms “in any manner.”

The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States guarantees an individual right to keep and bear arms.

The Militia Clause of the Constitution of the United States provides that Congress shall have the power to “provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia….”

The “Militia” as used in the Militia Clause means all able bodied men.

The individual right to bear arms existed at common law prior to the passage of the Second Amendment.

It’s a Militia Clause and a Second Amendment “right to bear arms” case. With a smattering of state-law preemption. For all things “DC v. Heller,” check out SCOTUSblog’s Wiki on the case. There you can read GeorgiaCarry.Org, Inc.’s amicus brief, authored by the same attorney who filed this test case.

What else has Mr. Bearden sponsored? HB 21 (attempting to make “English” the official language of Georgia), HB 126 (attempting to tweak criminal procedure to provide that a verdict in a felony case, other than a case involving the death penalty, shall be agreed to by at least 11 of the 12 jurors), HB 640 (attempting to protect state flags and other “commemorative symbols”), and HB 1204 (attempting to create crime of feticide by drug ingestion). None passed.

A couple of Mr. Bearden’s Resolutions that did pass: House Resolutions 1117 and 1291. Both relate to cheerleading, the latter: (“NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES that the members of this body commend the University of West Georgia All-Girl Cheerleading Team on their dominating win of the Division II All-Girl Cheerleading Competition and invite them to appear before this body on a date and at a time designated by the Speaker of the House for the purposes of being recognized by the House and receiving an appropriate copy of this resolution.”)

I wonder if these cheerleaders traveled to the State Capitol via MARTA (Atlanta’s public transportation system). The Georgia Secretary of State’s Web site encourages teachers to use MARTA for student field-trips to the State Capitol. I know that Georgia’s schools are weapons-free zones, but, thanks to Mr. Bearden’s leadership, MARTA is not.

*Afterthought: As I’ve said before, I know little about the empirical studies analyzing the relationship between gun violence and gun control. I’m more than unqualified to take a reasoned stance on the issue. I also believe — again, I don’t know — that most persons who apply for (and obtain) a permit to own a firearm have nothing but protectionism in mind when they do so. They’re good people! But a gun is still dynamite. And, in certain settings, sparks abound.

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  1. [...] its haste to champion a recently-established right to carry pistols on Atlanta’s subways, Georgiacarry.org overlooked some nuanced principles [...]

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