Public Panic and Your Firearm.
Someone sees your concealed weapon and panics, what do you do? What are the legal implications? What are the practical implications? Let’s spend some time discussing how best to handle someone else’s moment of panic when that person reacts negatively to seeing your concealed firearm in public. What are some simple practical steps to deescalate that situation?
Concealed Carry Law
Let’s first begin by reviewing Georgia’s Concealed Carry Law. We know that a weapons carry license holder shall be authorized to carry a weapon in every location in this state not specifically prohibited by statue. You can find that authorization in Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 16-11-127. This includes public locations, banks, restaurants, and even the grocery store. The owner or person in legal control of any of these public locations can exclude or eject an individual in possession of a firearm, but you must first be given notice.
Carrying in a public space
That is not our issue. Our issue is when another individual in that public space is concerned simply because you’re carrying a firearm. No other reason. What if this concerned citizen informs management? Well, that’s perfectly fine. Remember, with your weapons carry license—and you must have a weapons carry license to carry in public spaces—you are lawful to carry in a public space. This deals with pistols. With long guns, rifles, and shotguns, you do not have to have a weapons carry license. What we’re talking about here is a pistol because most often those are easiest to conceal. With your weapons carry license, you are lawful to carry in a public space, either openly or concealed. If the owner or manager of the public location asks you to leave, you must leave.
It is your constitutional right
What if the concerned citizen calls the police? Remember, you’ve done nothing wrong. You are a weapons carry license holder and therefore may carry in public, either openly or concealed. I can’t repeat that enough. If the officer arrives and begins to question you, keep two things in mind:
- In order to carry in a public space, either openly or concealed, you must have your weapons carry license with you. Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 16-11-137 clearly requires that “every license holder shall 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 pursuant to Code Section 16-11-130 or subsection (c) of Code Section 16-11-127.1, he or she shall have proof of his or her exemption in his or her immediate possession at all times when carrying a weapon… ”
That’s the strict reading of the statute. Furthermore, your failure to do so will be prima-facie evidence of a violation—evidence on its face that you violated the law. If you’re carrying without your weapons carry license in public, the fact that you don’t have that weapons carry license with you is, on its face, evidence that you violated the law. You lose the benefits and protections of your weapons carry license if you fail to carry it and have it with you when you’re carrying a firearm. No license equals bad news and a likely arrest, so make sure you carry your license with you.
- The very same statute, Official Code of Georgia Annotated 16-11-137 states in plain language understandable by every police officer, that “a person carrying a weapon shall not be subject to detention for the sole purpose of investigating whether such person has a weapons carry license.”
It is highly questionable whether the mere fact you have a firearm in public provides enough suspicion for an officer to question you about that firearm. But the law is without question, perfectly clear. You are not subject to detention solely to determine whether you possess a weapons carry license.
Don’t respond. Don’t engage
How should you react if confronted directly by this worried shopper, this concerned citizen? I believe this could be the best response: If you don’t have to talk to the police you surely don’t have to talk to a private citizen. If you are worried your responses may be taken out of context by someone who is already on edge about your concealed weapon, don’t rise to the bait.
Complete your bank transaction, your shopping trip, or your cheeseburger, and move along. Don’t respond. Don’t engage. As lawful weapons carry license holders, we often must make more informed and civilized decisions than other people. Don’t give that frightened member of the public the reaction that he or she may want, or that the police may want to justify intervening in the situation.
Don’t engage & “have a nice day”
If the panicked person demands a response or response is simply unavoidable, the most simple and reasonable response is best. “I am lawfully carrying a concealed weapon. Have a nice day”. As with so many things, less is more. It is your Second Amendment right to possess a firearm, and of course Georgia law allows you to do so, but you won’t win an academic debate in the line at the grocery store. It’s hard to have an academic debate with someone who’s panicked by your firearm. But if a response is unavoidable, “have a nice day” works best.
Remember, your goal is to protect yourself, but to leave the establishment with your life and liberty intact. Take the high road, knowing you are in the right. You may call the police if you wish if you feel threatened, and as always, you may lawfully protect yourself if the situation demands. Most importantly, you can always call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.