[Updated] COVID-19 Emergency: Camden County, GA Oversteps Its Authority

Update: Commission Chairman Jimmy Starline (District 3 commissioner) called me. He said that he has referred the matter to their attorney for review.

1. He stated that the county has no desire to stop firearm sales. He didn’t address the rest.

2. He said he assumes they simply copied state law on emergency powers. I noted that their clause differs significantly from state law on the governor’s powers. He said the law probably used to be different. To that, I pointed out that state preemption passed several years ago.

3. He did not say if they would inform law enforcement that the clause is unenforceable, which is my major concern. I hope he, or the attorney, note the clause in 16-11-173 that makes the county subject to lawsuits if some jacked up cop tries to enforce it.

What with the COVID-19 stuff going on I had occasion to notice a little something. Camden County declared a state of emergency. I’m chagrined that I hadn’t reviewed the county emergency code before. Sometimes I get too caught up in federal and state laws and legislation.

I sent my county commissioners a little letter.

Good day,

While reviewing Camden County Code Chapter 22, I noticed something which I think you need to correct.

Camden County Code Sec. 22-40. Emergency powers.
(c) The chairman of the board of commissioners shall have and may exercise for such periods as the state of emergency or disaster exists or continues the following emergency powers:

(5) Suspend or limit the sale, dispensing or transportation of alcoholic beverages, firearms, explosives or combustibles;

The power to regulate firearms in an emergency is reserved to the governor under O.C.G.A. § 38-3-51.

(8) Suspend or limit the sale, dispensing, or transportation of alcoholic beverages, firearms, explosives, and combustibles; provided, however, that any limitation on firearms under this Code section shall not include an individual firearm owned by a private citizen which was legal and owned by that citizen prior to the declaration of state of emergency or disaster or thereafter acquired in compliance with all applicable laws of this state and the United States; and

Moreover, under O.C.G.A. § 16-11-173, the state preempts regulation of firearms. County and municipal governments are specifically forbidden doing so.

(b)(1) No county or municipal corporation, by zoning or by ordinance, resolution, or other enactment, shall regulate in any manner gun shows; the possession, ownership, transport, carrying, transfer, sale, purchase, licensing, or registration of firearms or components of firearms; firearms dealers; or dealers in firearms components.

I would appreciate a very timely correction to Chapter 22, and written notice to county and municipal law enforcement agencies that Sec. 22-40.(c)(5), as it pertains to firearms, will not be enforced pending revision.

Thank you for your attention in this matter.


Carl “Bear” Bussjaeger

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