Critical information every gun owner should know, including:
- Where you can and cannot possess a firearm?
- When you can legally use a firearm?
- Numerous examples of how gun laws impact real lives.
- Clear explanations that separate myth from reality.
- Practical information regarding how to stay out of trouble.
- Plus much, much more...
Written by experienced attorneys in easy-to-understand language
Can I be sued if I shoot someone in self-defense?
No immunity from lawsuits
A common misunderstanding exists with respect to lawsuits and immunity, in that many people (wrongly) believe if you are legally justified in using your gun, you can’t be sued. This is just not the case. If a person has the filing fee, anyone can sue anyone else in the State of Georgia. There is no one stopping anyone else from filing a lawsuit. Prevailing in a lawsuit, however, is a different issue entirely. As we will soon discuss, an individual who is justified in the use of deadly force to prevent death or great bodily injury is immune from civil liability in Georgia. If the thwarted perpetrator files a lawsuit, though, no matter how frivolous, it still must be dealt with, and it still must be shown to the court the lawsuit is barred by civil immunity, or some other similar preclusion or defense. This process can take significant time, money, and legal energy even for the most frivolous cases. In short, lawyers get paid and even if you beat the “rap,” you still have to take the civil “ride.” So, if there is no immunity to lawsuits for gun owners, what protection is there?
If my child gains access to my firearm, am I in trouble?
Criminal liability for allowing a minor access to firearms
Georgia law makes it a crime for an individual to “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly… sell or furnish a pistol or revolver to a minor.” O.C.G.A. § 16-11-101.1(b). A parent or legal guardian may legally permit a minor to possess a firearm under exceptions found in O.C.G.A. § 16-11-132 (including but not limited to hunter safety courses and while on the parents’ property; all exceptions are discussed later in this chapter), but it is unlawful for a parent to furnish a pistol to a minor if the parent knows the minor has violated any permissible exception. Furthermore, it is unlawful for a parent to intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly furnish a pistol or revolver to a minor if the parent or guardian “is aware of a substantial risk that such minor will use a pistol or revolver to commit a felony,” or if the parent is aware of that risk and fails to take steps to stop the minor. O.C.G.A. § 16-11-101.1(c)(2). A parent is also in violation if he or she furnishes a pistol to a minor who has been convicted of a forcible felony or forcible misdemeanor or has been adjudicated for a delinquent act that would be considered a forcible felony or forcible misdemeanor if the minor were an adult. Any adult violating this code section is guilty of a felony.
Do Immunity Statutes really work?
Immunity for certain claims
Most important for gun owners if they find themselves included in a civil suit after a justified use of deadly force will be O.C.G.A. § 51-11-9, “Immunity from civil liability for threat or use of force in defense of habitation.”
As a careful reading makes clear, an individual who uses or threatens force or deadly force that is justified under Georgia law is immune from civil liability for personal injury or death that results from the defendant’s use of threats of force or deadly force, as applicable. And while the statute’s title invokes immunity “in defense of habitation,” the language of the law protects and immunizes those who threaten or use force in defense of self or others; in defense of habitation; and in defense of real property. Bear in mind: this statute does not prevent lawsuits. It makes suits filed against individuals justified in protecting themselves harder to win. Immunity from liability is a statutory, affirmative defense, and, as such, this defense will be considered after a plaintiff has sued a defendant. The statute provides immunity from liability if the use of force is justified; it does not provide immunity from being sued.
Also, note the language in the statute that one who uses force “shall not be held liable to the person against whom the use of force was justified or to any person acting as an accomplice or assistant to such person in any civil action brought as a result of the threat or use of such force.” While Georgia appellate courts have not interpreted it, this language could mean injury to a third party (not involved as a perpetrator or victim) is not covered. What could that mean?
John is the victim of a home invasion. He fires several shots at the intruder. The intruder is hit and stopped. One shot, however, misses the intruder and hits a propane tank at the house across the street. The propane tank explodes and burns down the neighbor’s home.
Can I be charged with a crime for shooting a dog before it bites me?
No general defense against animals statute
When it comes to the law of the use of force and deadly force to defend yourself, others, or property from animal attacks, Georgia law is a mixture of different laws that are not contained in one section of statutes alone.
Georgia has no dedicated self-defense or defense of others statute that deals with all animals. There exist statutes that justify – using the term as a defense in the manner we have come to know it – acts against animals in general, and more specific statutes that grant freedom from liability for acts committed against animals involved in specific conduct. This chapter will examine the laws that do exist relating to the use of deadly force against an animal and how your right to self-preservation can best be accomplished.
As we have found in our discussion on justification, Georgia law allows for the justified use of force or deadly force when and to the degree that the person reasonably believes that it is necessary to protect himself or herself from unlawful force, death, or great bodily injury. As this law applies to animal attacks, a person may be legally justified in using force or deadly force (such as firing a gun) against an attacking animal if that person “reasonably believes that such act is necessary to defend against an imminent threat of injury or damage to any person, other animal, or property.” O.C.G.A. § 16-12-4(h)(1). However, the threat must be “imminent”: our Georgia Court of Appeals has found that, in order to justify the act of killing a dog, even in the defense of yourself, your family, or property (or the person or property of another), “such danger must be imminent, and a real or obviously apparent necessity must exist, and the threatened injury could not otherwise be avoided.” Readd v. State, 164 Ga. App. 97 (1982).
Jim is walking in his neighborhood when out of nowhere three large pit bulls spot him and immediately begin running toward him barking with sharp fangs showing. Jim barely has time to draw and fire his .40 caliber Glock at the lead dog just before it lunged at him. Having dispatched one dog, the other two dogs flee.