- Associated Press - Monday, April 13, 2020

ATLANTA (AP) - A gun rights group is suing over what it says in an improper suspension of the processing of gun carry licenses resulting from an emergency response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The chief judge of the Georgia Supreme Court last month declared a judicial emergency and instructed courts statewide to “suspend all but essential court functions” to help stem the spread of the virus. Among the resulting limitations listed on the Fulton County Probate Court’s website was a suspension of the acceptance of applications for weapons carry licenses until further notice.

GeorgiaCarry.Org and Fulton County resident Sara Carter on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit against Fulton County Probate Judge Pinkie Toomer and Gov. Brian Kemp.

Georgia law says gun owners don’t need a carry license to have weapons in their homes, cars and places of business. But if they want to carry a weapon elsewhere, they must have a carry license.

The lawsuit asks a federal judge to order Toomer to accept Carter’s weapons license application and to prohibit Toomer from refusing to accept weapons carry license applications. The lawsuit says other probate judges across the state have also concluded that issuing carry licenses “is not an essential function.”

Toomer did not respond to an email Monday seeking comment on the lawsuit. The notification on her court’s website says the court isn’t accepting carry license applications because area police departments had indefinitely suspended fingerprinting for the licenses.

The lawsuit also asks a judge to prohibit Kemp from allowing the state’s carry law to be enforced if it’s not possible to obtain a carry license.

The lawsuit says GeorgiaCarry.Org also wrote Kemp a letter last month asking him to use his emergency powers he has in a public health emergency to suspend enforcement of the carry law.

A spokeswoman for Kemp did not immediately have a comment on the lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Steve Jones plans to hold a hearing Wednesday on the requests in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit notes that the U.S. Supreme Court has held that the Second Amendment “guarantees an enumerated, fundamental, individual right to keep and carry arms in case of confrontation.” It also says the Georgia Supreme Court has determined that “any law that purports to ban the open carry of firearms is unconstitutional and void” and that “the right to keep and bear arms is a civil right.”

By requiring a carry license to exercise a fundamental constitutional right but making it impossible to get a carry license and by effectively preventing her from carrying a gun outside her home, vehicle and place of business, Toomer and Kemp are violating Carter’s rights, the lawsuit argues.

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