On Sept. 1, a Fulton County judge ruled that the Atlanta Botanical Garden can ban patrons from carrying firearms, even though it sits on public property.
This debate started almost two years ago when Phillip Evans and his family visited the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. Evans was told guns were not allowed on the property. He was detained and the authorities were called. After that, the gun rights organization GeorgiaCarry helped Evans sue the Atlanta Botanical Garden, citing “that Georgia law states that firearms may be carried on public owned property. Even though the Atlanta Botanical Garden is a private entity, the property is city owned.”
Originally, the Fulton County court dismissed the case on the grounds that the Atlanta Botanical Gardens is a private entity and could decide whether or not to ban guns. However, it was taken to the Georgia Supreme Court, which decided “that dismissing the lawsuit based on the private property argument is wrong.”
Last week, the case was sent back to the same Fulton County judge, who this time ruled that the Atlanta Botanical Gardens has the right to ban visitors from bringing guns, despite operating on public property. The idea behind the ruling is that if the Atlanta Botanical Gardens doesn’t have the right to ban gun-toting visitors, other private entities operating on private land, like the Atlanta Falcons stadium or the College Football Hall of Fame, wouldn’t have that right either.
This ruling appears to be a first of its kind. As of right now, Georgia open carry laws allow patrons of most city and county parks, State Park, Historic Area or Wildlife Management Areas to carry guns as long as they have a valid Georgia Weapons License, due to their public property status. However, the idea that private entities operating on public land shouldn’t be forced to allow guns on their property if they don’t want to is one step toward common-sense gun laws in Georgia.