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Guns Nowhere? New firearms laws have little local impact
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Fears that Rockdale would see a "Wild West" atmosphere due to new gun-carrying laws have not materialized, the News has found.

In effect since July, the laws were mocked by opponents as "Guns Everywhere" for allowing legally permitted firearms in unsecured government buildings and bars that lack gun-ban signs. But there have been no issues with unwanted guns turning up there or on the streets, officials and bar owners tell the News.

The City of Conyers has spent about $1,700 so far securing its City Council meetings against guns, while county government has not made any security improvements at all.

"Everything's been smooth. We haven't had any incidents," said Conyers City Manager Tony Lucas. Earlier this year, he expressed some of the strongest local concerns about the gun laws, describing them as "crazy."

City Council was concerned as well, and approved new security measures. Under the laws, that has to include a screening conducted by sworn peace officers. The City Council chamber doubles as the municipal courtroom, and a metal detector was already in place for court use. Now that detector is activated for council meetings, and all attendees must pass through it.

The city now hires two off-duty police officers to conduct the security screening. Lucas estimates the cost at $120 per meeting-about $960 so far. The city also spent $125 on a new metal-detecting wand and $500 on weapons-banning signs, he said.

"No firearms have been discovered" at the council meetings or at a similar screening for the police department office, said Conyers Police spokeswoman Kim Lucas. Pocket knives are the only weapons to turn up so far, she said.

The city is also considering security upgrades for the Probation Office, partly in response to the gun laws, partly due to recent shootings in other cities' probation facilities. One upgrade already installed is a glass "protection shield" across the office counter, Tony Lucas said. The total cost for potential security upgrades there is around $6,500, he said.

Meanwhile, Rockdale County has not made any changes to such unsecured events as Board of Commissioners meetings, according to county spokeswoman Tonya Parker.

The BOC and the Sheriff's Office are still "assessing potential options," Parker said, but "there has not been any security additions or changes at this time."

Conyers police officers and Rockdale sheriff's deputies attended training classes on the new gun laws, which also prohibit officers from asking to see a gun-carrier's permit unless they are suspected of some crime. Tony Lucas said Conyers Police spent $1,000 on those classes, which were led by an Atlanta Police sergeant.

Concerns of a boost in 911 calls about people openly carrying guns have not materialized. "There has not been a noticeable increase of calls compared to the previous year," said Kim Lucas.

On the business side, many bars are not thrilled about the idea of people drinking while armed. The Celtic Tavern and the Whistle Post Tavern in Olde Town are among those that posted signs banning firearms. The signs appear to be doing their job so far without any customer friction.

"We truly have not had anyone want to [bring in a gun, or] ask about it, care about it," said Whistle Post manager Linda Moulton.