ATLANTA – Now that Gov. Nathan Deal and the legislature just finished with the new laws from this year’s legislative session, they’ve got to address a lawsuit over the wording of two bills changing the gun laws from last year.
The advocacy group Georgia Carry filed suit against Deal and members of the Code Revision Commission for allegedly putting the wrong wording into the Official Code of Georgia, the document lawyers, judges and police depend on for saying what the law is.
“The language that was in the bill didn’t show up in the code, and straightaway we started getting agencies saying that that bill was preempted by another,” said John Monroe, a leader with Georgia Carry and the attorney who filed the suit.
Deal and Attorney General Sam Olens both said last year that one bill effectively repealed the other when it comes to school zones. That was a key reason the governor on the signing sequence.
Deal signed House Bill 826 first, on April 22 of last year. The next day he signed HB 60.
HB 826 passed unanimously in the House and with only two dissenting votes in the Senate. It was aimed at ending zero-tolerance policies in schools that required administrators to expel students with a weapon, even nonlethal or for innocent reasons. It contained a provision when passed that relaxed the prohibition against adults possessing a gun in a school zone.
HB 60 was more controversial and faced 18 Senate and 58 House “no” votes when it passed. It was the subject of protests, editorials and constant news coverage. It broadened where guns could be taken, and critics dubbed it the “guns everywhere bill.”
It came close to passing on the final day of the 2013 session and appeared stalled in 2014 until a compromise watered down some of the most controversial provisions, including some dealing with schools and college campuses.
Georgia Carry filed its suit in Fulton County Superior Court Feb. 3, of this year. So far, the state hasn’t made an official response to the allegations other than to ask the judge to dismiss it.
The suit argues that the 15-member Code Revision Commission is required to update the code with the exact contents of the legislation becoming law, not make editorial decisions.
Olens’ office is representing the state, including Deal and the members of the commission. His spokeswoman declined to comment because of the pending litigation.
Georgia Carry officials said last year they planned to sue on behalf of someone with a concealed-weapon permit who wound up arrested in a school zone. But the suit it filed is on behalf of the organization only, not any individual.
However, it argues that permit holders work in school zones and have children in schools, giving them legitimate reasons to be there.
“Such members desire to carry firearms in case of confrontation when they are within such school safety zones, but they are in fear of arrest and prosecution for doing so on account of the inaccurate (code),” the suit said.
If the judge doesn’t dismiss the suit, it probably won’t come up for a hearing for months.
Follow Walter Jones on Twitter @MorrisNews and Facebook or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.