New gun law worries police, business owners - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

New gun law worries police, business owners

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

Nationally, it's been called the "guns everywhere" law, but what will Georgia's sweeping gun reform law really mean?

Georgia has a long way to go to the O.K. Corral. And gun rights advocates point out that in some states, like Arizona and Alaska, you don't even need to have a permit to carry a gun.

Under this new law, citizens will still need to pass a criminal background check if they plan to carry a gun, but police can't ask you to show that permit unless you're committing a crime.

"You can't stop them," said Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police President and Garden City Police Chief David Lyons. "You can't ask them. You can't do anything."

Lyons worries officers will get push-back from the public.

"'You let that guy just walk in here with a gun on and you didn't say anything?' No, I can't say anything."

If an officer does ask, and doesn't have probable cause to believe someone toting a gun is committing a crime, there could repercussions.

"I can be sued for unlawful detention," Lyons said.

He also worries that some gun owners might forego the permit process entirely.  

"Why would you go to the trouble of getting a permit if you know law enforcement can't ask you to produce it?"

Lyons is not the only one with concerns.

Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson said city staff is taking a look at a provision in the law that allows permitted gun owners to carry in government buildings, unless those buildings have armed guards.

"We are taking a look at how we're handling security in our buildings," said Jackson.

Savannah bar owner Billy Lee has been in the liquor business for 50 years. Right now, he's trying to figure out whether he'll allow guns in his bars once the law takes effect.

Come July 1, bar owners will have to explicitly prohibit carrying in their establishments. Lee supports gun rights, but he said firearms and alcohol don't mix.

"The good people who have permits and things, they'll be more responsible with their guns, but I don't think anyone who owns a business wants to have a shooting gallery in their place of business," said Lee.

Lyons said he understands the argument of gun rights supports.

"Because everybody's carrying a gun, gun violence will go down," Lyons said. "Robberies will go down, carjackings will go down."

But he also sees the other side, the argument that more people carrying guns in more places could make everyone less safe.

"I hope, either one, we don't learn that hard way that it didn't work," he said.

Lyons' main worry is a change to Georgia's Stand Your Ground Law that came with the governor's signature Wednesday. On July 1, a felon, who normally would be charged with a crime if caught carrying a gun won't be charged if the gun was proven to have been used in self-defense.

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