Georgia's Gun Laws Allow Man To Freak Out Sports Parents At Park

Apr 29 2014, 1:52pm CDT | by

In March, when I wrote a piece on how gun legislation would affect the likelihood parents watching their kids’ games would pack a pistol with the Capri-Sun and lawnchairs, I asked: “Would you feel safer, or less safe, knowing there were people in the crowd at your child’s sporting event who were armed?”

In Georgia, the day before the governor signed what the National Rifle Association called the “most comprehensive pro-gun bill in history,” the answer was a resounding “no.” From Atlanta’s WSB-TV:

Parents at a Forysth County park abruptly stopped a children’s baseball game after growing suspicions of the behavior of a man carrying a gun in a waist holster [April 22].

“He’s just walking around [saying] ‘See my gun? Look, I got a gun and there’s nothing you can do about it.’ He knew he was frightening people. He knew exactly what he was doing,” said parent Karen Rabb.

Rabb told Channel 2’s Tom Regan the parents grew so alarmed that they brought the game to a halt when the man declined a request that he leave a parking lot overlooking the baseball field.

“He scared people to the point where we stopped the game, took the kids out of the dugout and behind the dugout, and kind of hunkered down,” Rabb said.

Park users flooded 911 with 22 calls about the man. Forysth County deputies questioned the man, and found that he had a permit for the handgun. Authorities said since the man made no verbal threats or gestures, they could neither arrest him nor ask him to leave [Fowler Park].

The man was not identified in news reports, nor was his motive for bragging about his gun made clear.

The new Georgia law, among other things, expands the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law and where a permitted gun owner could carry his or her weapon (with exceptions to some businesses and organizations who are allowed to post signs stating they don’t want guns inside), and cuts back on record-keeping and background checks.

However, that law doesn’t take effect until July 1. The guy scaring baseball parents actually was taking advantage of a law that allows permitted gun owners to carry within county-owned parks.

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre famously said at December 2012 news conference in response to the 26 deaths in a mass shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school. However, the case of the guy in the park flashing his piece makes the issue of who is carrying where less black-and-white.

WSB quoted gun rights advocates as saying this wasn’t “the right way” to carry, and Rabb told the station: ”I own a gun. I have no problems with the Second Amendment. But they do not belong in a parking lot where we have children everywhere. If you want to make a statement, go to the Capitol,” said Rabb. A parent told another TV station her parameter for guns at the game: “If there was somebody else being crazy with a gun, and he was protecting us, then fine.”

Local reports are unclear whether parents were carrying themselves, and it does not appear that any of them, if armed, responded by showing their own guns in an attempt to get the man to back off. Judging by the 22 911 calls, probably not. And that’s good, because the last thing everyone needed was a standoff by the dugout.

Unfortunately, the whole incident is still very disturbing, because the guy flashing his gun wasn’t, in the eyes of the law, doing anything wrong. If the idea of allowing anyone and everyone to show up armed is to help people feel safer, this certainly is a case where the law failed. If the same guy comes back to do the same thing in the same place, there isn’t a thing anyone can do, except be shaken up. Or maybe as of July 1, ahem, stand your ground.

Until Georgia lets you shoot back without regret, local police are stepping up patrols in the park, and a local soccer club, the United Futbol Academy, whom I have contacted but have not yet gotten a response, put out this statement:

Without debating the pros and cons of Georgia’s new Safe Carry Protection Act, United Futbol Academy places the safety and security of our players and their families as our top priority. Due to the disturbance caused by a single individual visibly carrying weapons and disturbing the peace at Fowler Park, United Futbol Academy is now providing both police and Park Ranger protection throughout this coming weekend. UFA has communicated with players and families, instructing them not to engage this individual. Through assistance from our UFA parents, the Community, and the Forsyth County Recreation and Parks Department, we are taking every measure necessary to secure the safety of children and families at Fowler Park.

Isn’t there enough tension at youth sporting events to have deal with this, too?


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