SNELLVILLE -- Just to clarify: Snellville Mayor Kelly Kautz was not proposing a gun ban in her city's park.
An item included on a work session agenda earlier this week -- and the subsequent discussion prior to Monday's city council meeting -- drew the ire of some residents who feared Kautz was attempting to take away their right to bear arms at Briscoe Park, the only public park under the city's jurisdiction.
Kautz, though, said the discussion was merely that. The city received an email from the Georgia Municipal Association regarding a recent flap in Sugar Hill, where a man arrested for carrying a licensed gun at Gary Pirkle Park is pursuing a lawsuit.
Kautz said she was just asking City Attorney Tony Powell to research the incident and see if anything needed to be done to prevent such action against her city.
"I put it on (the work session agenda) more just for educational purposes for our council, our police department and our parks staff," Kautz said. "We put things (on the work session agenda) just for discussion."
In the incident in Sugar Hill, Christopher Proescher was arrested on April 20 while walking around the city's Gary Pirkle Park with his handgun in a belt holster.
Proescher said he had consulted the parks director beforehand and was told doing so was permissible. He was arrested anyway, and has since filed a federal lawsuit against a security guard and two police officers.
Proescher's attorney, John Monroe, said state law allows licensed guns to be carried everywhere but schools, churches, courthouses, government buildings, jails, nuclear power facilities, polling places and bars, unless bar owners permit them.
Kautz, an attorney herself, said the law doesn't appear to be that simple. She pointed to a section of Georgia code that says firearms are permitted in public parks as long as the owner has a carrying permit; she then pointed to another section, which defines a public park as "any land under control of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources."
Briscoe Park, obviously, is under the control of the city of Snellville, not DNR.
"We're asking the city attorney to look into that incident (in Sugar Hill), and see what the current law is and if we need to do something as a city" to protect themselves from a lawsuit, Kautz said.
"I just don't think it's a well-written law," she added.
Kautz said she had "no intention" of proposing a city park gun ban in Snellville, even expressing admiration for Proescher's standing up for what he believes are his rights.
"I'm happy that somebody's so passionate about their rights to take it on like this," she said.