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Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - 4:41am

Macon Officials Say New Gun Law Is Driving Performers Away From Public Venues

A new Georgia law expanding where guns may be carried won't take effect until July 1, but it's already having one unintended effect.

Officials in Macon say at least one performer is threatening to pull out of an upcoming concert at one of two city-owned venues because there could be guns in the crowd.

The Georgia Safe Carry Protection Act empowers licensed gun owners to bring their weapons into all government-owned buildings, if and when they are open to the public.

It does, however, contain an exception for those buildings that have security checkpoints at entrances — such buildings may prohibit guns.

The thinking behind that provision, said the law's architect state Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper), is that if building managers barred weapons with a simple policy without blanket enforcement "the bad guys wouldn't care, but the good guys would."

"House Bill 60 just insures that in a government building with security, nobody has a weapon," he said.

Jasperse said that provision should allow the Macon Centreplex and Macon City Auditorium to erect security checkpoints and prohibit guns for performers with a no-weapons policy.

But Crystal Jones, senior assistant attorney for the Macon-Bibb County government, said the law only gives that option to "government offices."

"Because they do not house government entities, or there are not government meetings taking place in those facilities, they don't constitute a government building which is able to have security personnel screening everyone," Jones said.

The same problem could affect Phillips Arena, home of the NBA's Atlanta Hawks, she said. That stadium is owned by the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority.

Under Jones' interpretation of the law, the problem would not affect Turner Field where the Atlanta Braves play, because the recreation authority houses its own offices there, thus qualifying the facility as a "government office."

Jones said Macon-Bibb officials are contemplating relocating a government entity into their public performance venues to make sure the facilities qualify as an office, and thus may put up security checkpoints.

Jasperse said he does not agree with Jones' interpretation of the law.