In response to Georgia’s suspension of the processing of carry permits, yet another lawsuit has been filed. This latest, House and Georgia Carry v. Kemp and Brackett, filed in the Superior Court of Union County, raises some interesting points which were not initially addressed the the Carter v. Kemp or Walters v. Kemp federal cases. That is not a criticism of those actions; there have been new developments since those suits were filed.
Unlike the Carter and Walters lawsuits, House does not ask that Georgia’s law requiring a license for weapons carry be suspended for the duration of the emergency. It merely asks that Probate Judge Brackett process license applications as required by law.
The complaint notes that Georgia Carry asked Governor Brian Kemp to suspend that law requiring a permit to carry, but the governor declined to do so. However the complaint also points out that the governor has suspended other laws; specifically the “prohibition against wearing masks in public” and the “requirement to take a road test to obtain a driver’s license.”
If the court is honest, that latter suspension should be a winning point. In Walters v. Kemp, the state argued that weapons licenses could not be processed safely because the application process requires the applicant and clerk to be in close proximity for fingerprinting and photographing, risking exposure to the coronavirus. The state also claimed that because a mask can’t be worn while the applicant is photographed, that is an additional risk.
While the suspension of the driving test removes one element of proximity, I can assure you — as someone with both a Georgia driver license and a weapons carry license — that the paperwork-processing, vision test, and picture-taking for the driver’s license (which also requires the removal of any mask) puts the individuals just as close together as the weapons license procedure, and for a longer period of time.
If the Department of Driver Services (DDS) can safely process driver licenses, probate courts can safely process weapons carry licenses. I’ll also note that the waiting area of my local DDS gets far more crowded than does the probate court clerk’s office, providing more opportunities to spread viruses.
In fact, if probate courts are concerned about contact spread of the virus via the fingerprint scanner, I should mention that when I got my driver license the clerk wiped down the vision test set between customers. And that was before the pandemic. For what we are charged for a weapons license in Georgia, I think probate courts can afford to buy a few disinfectant wipes at the dollar store.
Should the court follow the lead of other license lawsuits and deny this complaint, I look forward to seeing the judge’s mental contortions in doing do.
You can track the progress of this case here.