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Atlanta garden gun case wont affect Gainesville site
Smithgall site not affected because of private land donation
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The case involving a visitor carrying weapons in the Atlanta Botanical Garden has been remanded back to Fulton County Superior Court.

But whatever the outcome, it will not affect the garden’s Gainesville location, a Smithgall Woodland Legacy, because of the nature of the land it sits upon.

The decision to remand back to the county courtroom came Monday from the Supreme Court of Georgia, having earlier this year heard the case brought by GeorgiaCarry.org.

A man with a Georgia weapons carry license visited the Atlanta Botanical Garden twice in October 2014, a property leased from the city of Atlanta.

“After gaining admission to the Garden on his second visit, (the man) was stopped by an employee of the Garden and advised that he could not carry the weapon at the Garden; a security officer detained (the man), and (the man) was eventually escorted from the Garden by an officer with the Atlanta Police Department,” the Georgia Supreme Court decision read.

The legal issue concerns whether the private entity on land leased from the government can prohibit firearms.

“The state law says that persons in control of private property may ban firearms, but not government property,” GeorgiaCarry.org Executive Director Jerry Henry said. “And the problem you have is a private entity leasing government land, so therefore it’s not private property.”

The Gainesville location, however, is on donated land from Charles and Lessie Smithgall, founders of The Times.

“As private property, the gun case that has been remanded back to the Fulton County Superior Court does not affect the Gainesville Garden,” said Mary Pat Matheson, president and CEO of the Atlanta Botanical Garden. “We have a no-weapons policy there, as we do in Atlanta. The difference in the Atlanta Garden is on city property and we have a long-term lease for that property.”

The Georgia Supreme Court unanimously concurred to having the case remanded back to the county court.

“In addition, I want to be clear that the Garden has no issues with guns in general, but as an educational organizations with hundreds of thousands of families and children who visit, we do not believe it is safe to have guns openly carries within the Garden,” Matheson said in a statement. “The Atlanta Botanical Garden is focused on serving our visitors and on education, plant collections and community enrichment.”

Georgia State University law professor L. Lynn Hogue cited the case of Delta Airlines v. Coleman, a Georgia Supreme Court case concerning ad valorem taxes on property leased to the airlines from the government. The court ruled that it was private property subject to taxation.

“The short answer is the fact that the property is leased doesn’t change the nature of its privateness for the purpose of excluding weapons,” Hogue said.

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