DeKalb ordinance would mandate safe storage of guns

By Tyler Estep, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A DeKalb County commissioner has introduced a local ordinance that would mandate the safe and secure storage of firearms, a measure he said would help address preventable gun deaths and stem the tide of violent crime.

Commissioner Ted Terry said he’s been working on the legislation for quite a while. But Tuesday morning’s public reveal came just a week after a Michigan teen allegedly used a gun purchased by his father to kill four classmates and wound several others at Oxford High School in suburban Detroit.

“This is a policy that works,” Terry said. “We have to do it across the country, but we’re not waiting. We’re taking action now.”

Terry’s commission district covers the western half of DeKalb, including parts of the city of Atlanta. Several other local officials — including state Sen. Elena Parent, Atlanta school board chairman Jason Esteves and incoming Atlanta City Council president Doug Shipman — joined him at the press conference announcing his proposal.

So did representatives from Moms Demand Action, a national advocacy group that pushes for stronger gun laws.

As written, the DeKalb ordinance would make it unlawful to store firearms where “a minor, at-risk person or prohibited person” could easily gain access. It would require that guns either be stored in a locked container or “secured by a device or mechanism, other than the firearm safety, designed to render a firearm temporarily inoperable.”

Terry said that, in the absence of state or federal action, putting such an ordinance in place on the local level would play a part in addressing “the millions of children who are at risk from accessing unsecured firearms, or the hundreds of thousands of guns that are stolen out of vehicles that are funneled into the black market and used in violent crimes.”

The draft ordinance currently calls for a $500 fine for first-time violators. Options on the local level are limited and Terry said that, as much as anything, it’s about providing a basis for educating gun owners about the potential ramifications if they don’t properly secure their firearms.

“These are not radical acts,” said Liliana Bakthiari, who was recently elected to represent Atlanta City Council District 5. “This is common sense gun legislation.”

Parent — a Democrat whose state Senate district includes parts of the Avondale Estates, Brookhaven and Decatur — decried the fact that similar legislation she’s introduced at the state level has gone nowhere.

But the idea may be gaining steam on the municipal level.

Bakthiari said she and future colleagues are interested in proposing similar legislation in Atlanta. Esteves, the Atlanta school board chair, said that body adopted a resolution Monday night committing themselves to increase efforts at educating local parents about safe firearm storage.

Khalid Kamau, the mayor-elect of the city of South Fulton, was also at Tuesday’s press conference and said he plans to introduce his own safe storage ordinance once he takes office.

Terry’s draft ordinance, meanwhile, was formally introduced at a DeKalb County commission meeting later Tuesday morning. It will go through the commission’s normal committee process and won’t be discussed in earnest until the new year.

“The Georgia legislature has pre-empted almost everything when it comes to gun control, but is silent on safe storage legislation,” Terry said. “We welcome a legal challenge because it’s important to have those debates. But in the meantime we’re going to move forward.”

Leaders take on gun safety, secure gun storage at the local level

Originally published in The Champion

Members of local school boards, city councils, county commissions, and other leaders and elected officials gathered in Decatur recently to discuss gun safety and what changes can be made at the local level to ensure guns are stored properly.

DeKalb County Commissioner Ted Terry was joined by State Senator Elena Parent, Atlanta Public School Board Chair Jason Esteves, Atlanta City Council President-Elect Doug Shipman, Atlanta City Council-Elect Liliana Bakhtiari, South Fulton Mayor-Elect Khalid Kamau and members of the Moms Demand Action organization to announce their push for legislation and resolutions at all levels of government to require safe storage of guns.

“The [recent] Oxford High School shooting in Oakland County, Michigan highlighted the increased urgency to pass common sense gun safety measures. Police involved in this case say that the shooter used a gun he got from his parent’s nightstand which was unsecured. This tragedy and countless others we’ve endured are avoidable and we can start here at the local level by passing secure gun storage policies immediately,” said Terry.

While Terry said an introductory draft of local legislation for the proper storage of guns has been shared with DeKalb County’s public safety committee for review, Esteves announced that Atlanta Public Schools (APS) passed a resolution that requires school board members and the superintendent to work with organizations, families, and the city of Atlanta to “communicate and educate stakeholders on the great responsibility and need of safe storage of guns.”

“While as a school board we can’t pass gun legislation, we can certainly do what we can to ensure our parents and community members know and understand their responsibilities as gun owners,” said Esteves.

Bakhtiari and Shipman, both recently elected in the Nov. 30 runoff, said voters expressed concerns with gun safety and the uptick in gun violence throughout metro-Atlanta during their time campaigning.

“During this election, on door-steps, in forums and in small groups, people talked a lot about wanting to do something new to address our public safety issues,” said Shipman. “They would ask me about how we could do something about the proliferation of guns and gun violence. That question came up very often. I am excited to see that across counties, cities and school districts, we’re trying to address what voters have demanded in this past election, which is ‘find solutions and find new ways of dealing with this problem.’”

Terry said he expects a discussion about the proposed safe gun storage legislation in DeKalb County to occur by the end of the year. He said he has spoken with county commissioners and local leaders in Columbus, Macon, Savannah, Chatham, Athens, Clayton, Cobb, Gwinett, Newton, and Rockdale counties, all of whom “were interested in taking action locally in the absence of action taken at the state and federal level.”

“There might be legal challenges ahead but that’s OK, […] and we’re prepared to have that debate, but today, we have local leaders here in metro-Atlanta and across Georgia standing up and taking action,” Terry said.

According to Moms Demand Action and Everytown, two nonprofits that advocate against gun violence and are working in collaboration with APS and DeKalb County officials, gun owners can make their homes and communities safer by storing their guns locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition.

Learn more about proper gun storage, secure gun storage devices and more at