Signs, Signs, Everywhere A Sign
An oldie but goody I’ve used before: “Sign, sign, everywhere a sign, Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind, Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?” Signs by Five Man Electrical Band.
Are guns really not permitted by law in “healthcare facilities”? Surely this sign is right, Kelly, I mean, my local hospital wouldn’t lie to me, would they? Alas, they did lie. But it’s on you to know that the government, on occasion, lies.
Remember, unless you have a GWCL, you can’t carry outside your home, business or car, so you shouldn’t be packing in the hospital anyway. OCGA Sec. 16-11-127 is the list of places where it is prohibited for a Georgia Weapons Carry License (GWCL) holder to carry a weapon, but “healthcare facility” isn’t on there. If the hospital attorney wants to point me to the part of the code that says “healthcare facility”, I’m all ears, but good luck on that. So it is a lie that Sec. 127 prohibits weapon carry in a healthcare facility.
But there are caveats in the HMC sign. The sign goes on to talk about “policy.” Can HMC have a policy that prohibits weapons carry? Maybe. But this is a two handed test.
If on the one hand HMC is a “government building”, and it is owned by Houston County Hospital Authority, then HMC could prohibit guns inside their doors, if they restrict entry into the building through the use of security personnel (Sec. 127(e)(1). They don’t do that, nor should they in my opinion. It’d be a ridiculous expense for a non-existent problem, except maybe the ER were the late night nut cases might justify that trouble. The Legislature’s point is that if a government is going to prohibit weapons carry, they have to ensure that no one is carrying. They can’t just put up a stupid sign that only stops the law abiding from exercising their gun toting right.
What HMC, assuming they are a government entity, appears to be doing is putting the onus on the gun-toter to notify HMC security and surrender the weapon to security. Now if that is their policy, I guess they can do that because the gun-toter would be volunteering to comply with something that the law doesn’t mandate. As I see their “policy”, they can’t even require a gun-toter to leave UNLESS they provide security at the door, and they don’t.
Now the on the other hand, if HMC is now a private entity, and they sorta kinda are I hear, then as a private entity they can adopt whatever stupid policy they want. But their sign would still be wrong because Sec. 127 doesn’t cover healthcare facilities, even private ones. However as a private entity they can have a “No Guns” policy, and if they ask a gun-toter to leave, the gun-toter has to leave. Maybe, because if I had three hands, I would say on the third hand, there is a great argument that HMC, if it is private, can’t have its own policy because it leases the hospital from a government, and as such, is bound by the law as it applies to government. There is a court case, Georgia Carry v. Atlanta Botanical Gardens, pending before the Georgia Supremes that could answer this question: If a private entity leases public property, can it institute policies that the government could not enact on the same land?
A court decision is expected in June on the private vs. public property issue, but in the meantime, the sign at HMC is intentionally misleading about the law, and that is a shame. We should be able to trust the government, but they lie when it suits them.
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 atwww.kellyrburke.com to view prior columns.