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Friday, March 03, 2006

Self-Defense Outside the Home > Legislature > Story
Bill gives Georgians right to use deadly force in public areas

By Sonji Jacobs

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 03/02/06 11:42 AM

Georgians would be able to use deadly force in public areas such as parking lots under a bill approved by the state Senate on Thursday.

Senate Bill 396 passed by a vote of 40-13, and now heads to the House for approval.

“We already have a very strong law in the state of Georgia, but I felt a couple of pieces were missing from the puzzle,” said state Sen. Greg Goggans (R-Douglas), the bill’s sponsor. “This makes the law stronger for all the law-abiding citizens and victims in this state. This is about putting common sense into code.”

Goggans explained the measure would change Georgia’s current law in four key areas:


It extends the ability of Georgians to use deadly force beyond their homes, vehicles, personal property and businesses into the public arena.

The bill puts into the Georgia code that law-abiding citizens have no duty to retreat, a matter upon which the law is currently silent

The bill grants immunity from criminal prosecution to those who use deadly force, unless they used an unlawful weapon in protecting themselves

The bill also grants people who use deadly force immunity from civil actions

Several Democrats, however, expressed concerns that the bill would open the door to more violence because people would use the excuse of self-defense for their actions.

“This is a recipe for murder,” state Sen. Regina Thomas (D-Savannah) said. “We are trying so hard in this state – especially in Chatham County – to reduce crimes of any nature.” She also expressed concern that the measure could increase the number of hate crimes in Georgia. But Goggans argued there was no evidence that the bill would encourage an increase in such crimes.

State Sen. Steen Miles (D-Decatur) said that ordinary citizens may not be well-equipped to make quick life and death decisions when facing a threatening situations. She argued that law enforcement officers – who receive months of training – sometimes make the wrong decisions regarding the use of deadly force.

Several groups such as Georgians for Gun Safety, also have argued that the measure could lead to more violence in the past few months.

The National Rifle Association, which pushed the bill through the Florida Legislature last year, is lobbying hard for the bill’s passage in Georgia and other states.

Marion Hammer, who served from 1995 to 1998 as the NRA’s first female president, told a Senate committee in late January that the Georgia bill “restores self-defense and puts government back on the side of honest citizens.”