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MARTA readies for new gun law

LAWRENCEVILLE - Nearly 300,000 registered gun owners now have the right to carry their firearms on public transit, into state parks while visiting and into restaurants that serve alcohol. The only caveat - they need a carry permit, which requires a criminal background check.

The new law, along with about 100 others that took effect with the start of the fiscal year July 1, has prompted area transit providers to prepare their customers and staff for the change.

MARTA's Communications Director Cara Hodgson said in a statement that its police force will strictly enforce all provisions of the new law and that any individual found to be carrying a firearm without a permit will have it confiscated and be issued a citation pursuant to Georgia law. She also said MARTA prohibits its employees, whether licensed or not, from possessing a weapon while on MARTA property. Hodgson was unable to comment or answer questions concerning MARTA's policy Monday and said all questions needed to be answered by its chief of police, Wanda Dunham, who wouldn't be available until the morning press conference today to discuss the matter.

Phil Boyd, Gwinnett County's Transit Director, said Veolia Transportation drives the county buses and also handles security for them. He said the firm had put out a statement to its employees informing them of the new law while also reminding them they cannot prohibit passengers from carrying concealed weapons as long as they are properly licensed. He also reiterated MARTA's stance for its employees stating Veolia's were not allowed to carry concealed weapons while on duty in Gwinnett.

"I don't see it changing the climate a whole lot," Boyd said. "There probably aren't that many people licensed to carry a concealed weapon that ride the bus."

The law passed in the final hours of this year's legislative session. Both critics and supporters say it's the largest expansion of gun rights in Georgia in recent years.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.