The Georgia Supreme Court has granted Georgia Carry a continued opportunity to pursue its lawsuit against the Atlanta Botanical Garden. If a new ruling favors the gun rights group, the lawsuit could allow patrons to carry their licensed firearms as they visit the garden.
When Phillip Evans visited the Atlanta Botanical Garden with his family in October 2014, he walked around with his firearm holstered to his hip. For nearly three hours, Mr. Evans firearm was open and visible to the pubic with no known complaints. However, when the Evans family attempted to visit the Botanical Garden’s once more, Garden employees notified law enforcement and Phillip was asked to discard his weapon before entry. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the news organization located the court filings and reported, “The Gwinnett County man walked around the garden for about three hours with his gun openly strapped to his side on Oct. 5, 2014. The complaint said no one stopped him or complained about it that time. But when the family returned a week later, the police were called and Evans was told he could not be armed while on Botanical Garden property.”
Phillip Evans is a member of Georgia Carry. Evans along with the guns right organization, sued the Atlanta Botanical Garden, citing that Georgia law states that firearms maybe carried on public owned property. Even though the Atlanta Botanical Garden is a private entity, the property is city owned.
Originally, the Fulton County Superior Court dismissed the case, siding with the Garden, which would allow the business the right to file criminal charges against Phillip Evans and any other person carrying a firearm on property. The Georgia Supreme Court has ruled differently, citing that dismissing the lawsuit based on the private property argument is wrong. In the case ruling, Justice Hunstein wrote, “The facts are not in dispute. The Garden is a non-profit corporation that operates a botanical garden complex on property leased from the City of Atlanta.”
Also the court cited, since the garden is not a government entity, the attraction did not have the authority to bring criminal charges.
Georgia Carry released a statement on their site concerning the ruling. “On May 9, 2016, the Supreme Court of Georgia reversed a ruling of the Fulton County Superior Court dismissing GCO’s lawsuit against the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. In the lawsuit, GCO and member Phillip Evans seek declaratory and injunctive relief against the Gardens because the Gardens claims to have the authority to ban guns on its property. The Gardens leases the property from the City of Atlanta, and state law prevents lessees of public property from banning weapons on such property.”
The debate will continue, as the Georgia Supreme Court has bumped the case back down to the Fulton County Superior Court for re-evaluation.