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Holidays require extra precautions for firearms safety
Instructors and students practice firing rounds at short range at the sheriff’s office’s quarterly gun safety course. - photo by CHELSEY ABERCROMBIE

As the holiday season gets into full swing, many gun owners will welcome guests into their homes or hit the open road for travel.

For some, this makes it the most important time of the year for weapons safety, as well as cheer and enjoyment.

Gun owners who aren’t accustomed to locking up their weapons should consider taking precautions if they plan on welcoming guests, especially if those guests are children.

“Certainly we would want to keep the weapon out of reach of a child,” said Sgt. Jeff Shoemaker of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office. “That could mean either (putting it) up and away or in some type of a locked container, or to employ some kind of a gun lock.”

Shoemaker is a regular instructor of the sheriff’s office’s gun safety course, a free course it offers quarterly. Shoemaker and several other individuals from the sheriff’s office taught a course on Saturday, when they emphasized the “fundamentals of shooting,” tenets of gun ownership that always come back to safety.

“All aspects of safety are really important, so we just want to make sure that (the students are) understanding how to properly load and unload the weapon,” Shoemaker said. “We want to make sure that we show the process for making a weapon safe and empty.”

All new weapons must be sold with a gun lock, a device composed of a cable and padlock that can easily be fitted to a handgun or rifle to prevent it from being able to fire. It is recommended that only the owner keep the key. The sheriff’s office distributes gun locks at the safety course free of charge.

While gun locks are effective, Shoemaker still recommends keeping weapons in a locked safe or other compartment that is impenetrable without a key, because children’s behavior can be unpredictable, especially if they’re in a new environment.

“A child or a prying mind, they get really curious, so probably a locked place is always best, because there’s no limit to what the child might try to do,” Shoemaker said.

Shoemaker and his fellow deputies regularly answer questions about gun safety and laws pertaining to gun ownership.

“Nowadays, crime is getting worse,” said Ashley Kolashinski, who attended the gun training course. “I drive to Atlanta sometimes, and one of my fears is, being a single young woman, something could happen, and if you can’t protect yourself then obviously you’re going to get (hurt).”

People planning on bringing their firearm with them as they do their holiday traveling should be especially aware of the laws about transporting guns across state lines.

There is no federal ban on bringing a weapon across state lines, but each state has particular laws about traveling with firearms.

In Georgia, individuals must have a valid weapons carry license to carry a firearm, but they do not need a license to keep a gun on their property, including in their vehicle. When crossing into another state, individuals must obey the gun laws of that particular state, regardless of where the license was issued.

Individuals can contact the sheriff’s office if they have inquiries as to where they can carry their firearm or the best method of keeping it safe.

The more well-informed individuals are, the less likely they are to have an accident during the holiday season or any other time of year.

“I think that most of the people who do possess weapons, they want to obey the law,” Shoemaker said. “They want to comply and cooperate with (the law).”

A previous version of this story included incorrect information about the weapons carry license.

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