Savannah Vehicle Gun Storage Law Deemed Void, But City Mayor Remains Defiant

by Tommy Grant
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Georgia’s Attorney General Chris Carr has declared Savannah’s new gun storage ordinance “void,” citing conflicts with state law, while Savannah’s Mayor Van Johnson remains defiant insisting his city intends to enforce the law, making gun-owning citizens who get victimized by criminals possibly just as equally as liable as the criminals themselves.

The ordinance, unanimously approved by the Savannah City Council and signed by the mayor, makes it illegal for gun owners to leave unsecured firearms in their vehicles, WSAV News 3 reported. Violators face a $1,000 fine and up to 30 days in jail. The law specifically outlaws leaving an unsecured, visible gun in an occupied car in Savannah. “Secure” is defined by the law as a gun that is stored in a glove compartment, console, locked truck, or area behind the last upright seat of a car when leaving it unoccupied.

Carr’s letter to Savannah city officials, including City Attorney Bates Lovett, stressed that Georgia law prohibits local governments from regulating the “possession, ownership, transport, or carrying of firearms.” He noted that the ordinance appears to be ultra vires and emphasized the city’s potential civil liability under state law.

“We have not undertaken any analysis of the potential consequences of adoption and enforcement of ordinances that are void. However, at minimum, it appears that the city should note the potential civil liability,” Carr wrote.

Despite the attorney general’s stance, Mayor Johnson remains defiant, urging enforcement of the ordinance.

“If a gun is stolen out of your car because of your negligence, we’ll prosecute the person that took it for entering your vehicle, but we’re also gonna prosecute you for recklessness,” Johnson said during a Facebook Live session that was reported by WJCL 22 News. “You have a duty to secure your firearm in this city.”

Johnson further challenged the attorney general’s directive on social media, stating, “The AG told me the new gun storage ordinance was illegal. Well, we don’t agree so we’re saying take us to court. Sue us, we’ll go to the Supreme Court and let the United States Supreme Court say it.”

The mayor also expressed confidence in the city’s legal representation.

“We got lawyers too, we pay good lawyers, we have some of the best lawyers and so we can agree with our attorney general so the gun ordinance doesn’t go anywhere. Sorry,” he added.

Carr mentioned that his office provides a courtesy review of proposed ordinances and had Savannah requested a review, they would have been informed of the legal conflict. Georgia has preemption statutes in effect in the state that does not allow municipalities to pass laws that exceed the state’s gun laws.

Read the Georgia AG’s full letter to Savannah here.

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