Georgia city rules that people must lock empty vehicles when guns are inside

Coastal Georgia’s largest city will require guns left in empty vehicles be securely stored, an effort that Savannah Mayor Van Johnson says is meant to cut down on gun thefts from unlocked cars.

“We are not trying to take anybody’s guns — that is a constitutional right granted by the Second Amendment,” Johnson, a Democrat, told reporters. “But we do think with the right comes a responsibility to maintain and secure this right. I am still going to carry my gun. But I am also going to lock my gun up.”

The ordinance passed Thursday will also require people to report gun thefts to police within 24 hours. City officials plan to begin enforcement after a 90-day educational campaign. No one spoke against the ordinance during public comment, while it was supported by members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

The move is part of a focus by gun control advocates on keeping guns secured. They unsuccessfully pushed in Georgia’s Legislative Session earlier this year to give people a $300 state income tax credit to pay for gun locks, gun safes and safety classes. The focus on safety partly reflects that more restrictive measures are blocked because Georgia’s state government is controlled by Republicans and because recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings have left many gun control measures on shaky legal footing.

Minnie Gilbert, whose grandson was shot to death in 2020 and daughter was shot to death in 2023, said Savannah’s new law will help cut down access to illegal weapons. The law comes with maximum penalties of a $1,000 fine and 30 days in jail.

“With this ordinance, lock up your weapons otherwise you’re going to be held responsible,” Gilbert said. “This should make more people more conscious and more self-aware of what’s happening.”

Savannah police reported 244 guns stolen from vehicles last year in the city of 148,000. Of those thefts, 203 came from unlocked cars. The trend is similar so far this year, with 56 of 69 thefts coming from unlocked cars.

Under the ordinance, guns left in vehicles must be securely stored in a glove compartment, console, locked trunk, or behind the last upright seat of a vehicle without a trunk. People will also be required to keep unoccupied vehicles locked when there’s a gun inside.

“Every gun thief knows that guns are under these seats, they are in center consoles, and that is not hiding it,” said Johnson, who introduced the ordinance on April 2. “That is certainly not securing it. When you leave your car, you take it with you. Because it is supposed to be in defense of you — it is not in defense of the car. The car can’t defend itself.”

Among supporters was Savannah Alderwoman Linda Wilder-Bryan, who entered politics after her son was shot and killed in 2015.

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Republished with permission from The Associated Press.




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