If you enjoy law as a spectator sport, get your stadium seat cushion, binoculars, and giant foam finger ready.
Georgia Carry Challenges Atlanta Falcons Gun Ban
On Oct. 22nd, Atty. John R. Monroe sent Falcons General Counsel Mike Egan a letter explaining that the Falcons were not in compliance with state law due to their policy banning off-duty police officers and licensed citizens carrying firearms at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
At issue is whether a private party leasing government-owned property can ban the otherwise lawful carry of firearms there. After all, under Georgia law, while owners of private property can declare a “gun-free” zone, government entities, with certain exceptions, cannot.
This was clearly established in the recent “Georgia Carry, Inc. v. Atlanta Botanical Garden, Inc.” case; the court ruled that the government-owned, but leased Botanical Gardens property cannot ban concealed carry there.
You might wonder how these leases differ from you renting a home or apartment and asking people not to bring a firearm into your home. The difference is “usufruct” . . .
In Georgia, a usufruct is “rights or privileges usually arising out of landlord and tenant relationships, and with privileges granted to tenants holding less interest in real estate than estate for years”. Under Georgia law, if a landowner grants a lease for fewer than five years, the lease agreement is a usufruct, and the landowner retains the estate. Additionally, Georgia court’s consider any relationship between a landowner and a lessee where the restrictions are “so pervasive as to be fundamentally inconsistent with the concept of an estate for years” or the landowner retains “dominion and control” over the business operating on the property a usufruct.
The Mercedes-Benz Stadium property is leased to the the Atlanta Falcons NFL football club for 30 years, so you might think that takes it out of the realm of usufruct and into that of an estate, where the lessor can do little things like violate Second Amendment rights. That’s where, I believe, the “pervasive restrictions” and “dominion and control” come into play.
The Atlanta Falcons’ lease doesn’t grant them exclusive use of the property. The city-owned Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) retains the right to control the stadium’s schedule and book their own events like concerts.
As I understand this — bearing in mind that I am not an attorney, and know less about real estate law than firearms law — that element of government control of the stadium property makes it a usufruct owned by a government entity which is not one of the exemptions where government entities can ban firearms.
Today, November 1st, was the deadline given to the Falcons football team to respond to attorney John Monroe’s letter. As yet, I see no formal response, so my guess is that the issue will end up in court.
In the news, Falcons owner Arthur Blank seems to be signalling just that.
The Falcons owner, Arthur Blank, contends the law doesn’t oblige the Falcons to change anything.
“Mercedes-Benz Stadium will continue to operate in compliance with the laws of the State of Georgia and ban weapons from entering the premises,” a spokeswoman tells 11Alive news.
The Falcons’ lawyers will likely argue the “30 year lease point,” while Georgia Carry notes the “dominion and control” issue, and waves the rather convincing Botanical Gardens precedent under their noses.
If you live in Georgia and are not yet supporting GCO, now might be a good time to start (I am a member with no financial interest).