The Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon has decreed that there will be no guns allowed at their event.as they have the right to prohibit guns in order to make the festival a “family friendly” event. Apparently the Second Amendment isn’t “family friendly” to the organizers of the CBF so they have the right to suspend that portion of the Constitution during the two week run of the festival.
Georgia has returned, in a large degree, to our roots as rebellious, liberty seeking colonists. We fought the British early and often, and we were enamored by the Second Amendment until 1868, when we decided that gun carry only applied to white folks. We are now closer to being pre-1868 Georgia as we allow open or concealed weapons carry (albeit with a government issued license). That license, called a Georgia Weapons Carry License (GWCL), is issued to everyone who applies, is eligible and has $80. So simply get your license and carry away, right?
Well, not in Macon on public streets during the CBF. You see, they have the power to suspend Georgia law. They say that if they put up a sign saying “No guns” then that means they can have you arrested for toting a gun on the public properties used by the CBF. It is an interesting concept, the suspension of the Constitution by signage. What if they said “No Baptists” at the CBF? Does the First Amendment “free exercise of religion” thing really trump the CBF’s family friendly mission? Can a CBF volunteer, armed with a CBF badge bought at the Dollar Store, have the right to forcibly frisk and search you? I mean, that whole Fourth Amendment thing is a burden on “family friendly” gatherings, isn’t it?
The CBF apparently realizes that they can’t enforce their “no guns” policy, so they rely on the Sheriff of Bibb County to be their enforcement arm. Sheriff David Davis, who normally has pretty good common sense, is put into a bind and has to suspend all logic in order to carry out the mission of the CBF. Sheriff Davis says that so along as the signs are up, somewhere I guess, that gun toting is prohibited, the Georgia Code and U.S. Constitution be damned.
I am fully aware that reporters misrepresent what people say. For instance, Sheriff Davis is said to have talked about “concealed carry permits.” We don’t have those in Georgia. We have the GWCL, which allows open or concealed carry. Sheriff Davis hopefully knows that and it was an ill-informed reporter who made that mistake. Sheriff Davis is quoted as saying that if an “entity’ doesn’t want guns at an event, they can put up signs. While it is unsettled if that is true at a closed facility, like the Coliseum, where security can be placed at every door, it is clearly not true that an entity can say they are “renting downtown” Macon and then prohibit guns or Baptists. The point of the security provision of OCGA 16-11-127 is to make it so that weapons are removed from everyone at the event. Unless the CBF is going to wall off Central City Park and have security at every gate, they can’t just ban guns by signage.
I like the CBF. It’s one of the beautiful things in Macon. It’s a good time and lots of family fun. And you can bet that if I’m there with my family, I’ll be carrying no matter what signage they put up. You see, I understand the Constitution and I am familiar with Georgia law, so fake news stories about “no guns” signs don’t bother me. Don’t let it bother you either.
Kelly Burke, master attorney, former district attorney and magistrate judge, is engaged in private practice. He writes about the law, rock’n’roll and politics. These articles are not designed to give legal advice, but are designed to inform the public about how the law affects their daily lives. Contact Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org to comment on this article or suggest articles that you’d like to see and visit his website at www.kellyrburke.com to view prior columns.