Robert Sadtler lives in Virginia but wants to visit his Georgia relatives — if he can bring his gun.
Georgia, however, says he has to leave it behind.
So Sadtler has sued to force Georgia to recognize gun carry permits issued to visiting Virginians, just as Virginia recognizes permits issued to Georgians who travel there.
“I’m just looking to be treated as residents in other states are treated,” said Sadtler, a gun-rights activist who lives in Richmond.
At issue is a common arrangement among states known as “reciprocity” — we’ll recognize your carry permits if you’ll recognize ours — and Sadtler’s suit is testing Georgia’s all-or-nothing stance. Virginia’s law says no one under 21 may obtain a carry permit; Georgia has the same rule with one exception: honorably discharged military veterans who haven’t turned 21 yet. It’s a very small group of people.
“Until recently, Virginia didn’t recognize Georgia licenses at all. … And now they recognize Georgia but not people under 21,” said John Monroe, the attorney for the gun-rights group GeorgiaCarry.org who brought the suit on Sadtler’s behalf.
Sadtler said he has relatives in metropolitan Atlanta and wants to bring his gun when he visits, but he fears he will be arrested and prosecuted if he comes armed. So he doesn’t plan a trip anytime soon.
“The world is just a very random place,” Sadtler said. “If criminals were to announce their intentions on social media there would be no reason for any citizen to protect themselves. Decent people who take their protection seriously have to anticipate and prepare.”
He resents that restrictions that apply to such a small group of people in Georgia are affecting him.
Monroe said a survey of probate judges, who issue gun permits in Georgia, showed that about 100 Georgians younger than 21 have been issued permits to carry handguns because of their military service. It’s a small number among the thousands of Georgians that is estimated to have permits to carry in the state, Monroe said.
Kathryn Grant, director of the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus, said the suit was just another “attempt by GeorgiaCarry to fulfill their organizational mission” to eliminate all restrictions on guns.
“That’s not the mission,” Monroe said. “There are some places where we believe guns should not be allowed. Not many. But there are some places.”
For now, reciprocity is a state-by-state issue, even though for several years there have been attempts to pass a national reciprocity law.
Pending U.S. House and Senate bills will die at the end of this session of Congress. But Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., has said he will propose next month in the new Congress a bill similar to one he introduced in 2015 to require that every state honor weapons-carry permits issued in any other state, regardless of differing standards.
“Our Second Amendment right doesn’t disappear when we cross state lines,” Hudson said in a statement.
“We think this is the most dangerous idea they’ve ever had,” said Jonas Oransky, senior counsel for Everytown for Gun Safety. “It’s a terrible policy and should make people very scared.”
He said such a mandate would force states with strict gun laws to honor permits issued under less restrictive statutes. “It extends the law to people residing in states where there is no permit to carry,” Oransky said, singling out Missouri, which no longer requires a permit to carry a firearm.
Ten states and the District of Columbia don’t recognize gun carry permits issued by other states, according to Everytown for Gun Safety.