Thursday, October 09, 2014

Judge: Guns won’t fly at Wings Over North Georgia air show

A Floyd County judge on Wednesday ruled against a man who wants to carry a firearm to the Wings Over North Georgia air show. Dan Haithcock, a Cum­ming resident, and failed in their efforts to allow weapons at the Oct. 18-19 air show at Richard B. Russell Regional Airport. However, their complaint is still moving through the court system, and could affect who can bring firearms to future, similar events. Superior Court Chief Judge Walter J. Matthews hinged his ruling on JLC AirShow Management leasing the airport for the show. As the renter it can prohibit weapons and hire security to enforce that policy at a checkpoint, the judge said.

Matthews also said the Floyd County airport qualifies as a commercial airport, finding that it makes revenue through fuel and other sales. People are prohibited from carrying weapons in restricted areas of such airports, though they may have them in the parking lot and outside a checkpoint.

“I really think that to rule otherwise creates a problem,” Matthews said.

Haithcock, who testified that he regularly carries a firearm, said after the judge’s ruling that he still intends to attend the air show.

He added that he keeps a firearm to protect himself and his family.

“The police have no duty to protect us,” Haithcock added. “They can’t be everywhere.”
During the hearing, Roswell attorney John Monroe, who represents Haithcock, argued the law allows his client to carry a firearm at the air show. Monroe emphasized that the Georgia Code lets private property owners eject someone with a firearm, but not someone who’s on public property.

Click here to see the text of the law that expanded gun carry areas in Georgia.
Matthews countered by asking Monroe if someone could attend a University of Georgia football game or a Rome Braves game with a firearm.

“That’s a serious question brought up by this lawsuit,” the judge said, adding moments later, “you see the problem once the camel’s nose is in the tent.”

Matthews questioned if a group that rented Ridge Ferry Park would be restricted from prohibiting weapons, or if a private college that rented the Georgia Dome couldn’t stop people from carrying firearms into the facility.

The judge then decided that someone who leases public property essentially makes it private for the term of the lease and can restrict firearms.

The airport will have a security checkpoint during the air show, which qualifies it under the law as a place free from weapons, County Attorney Tommy Manning said.

“There’s been no evidence of potential conflict at the airport,” Manning added.

Monroe said the lawsuit would continue beyond this year’s Wings Over North Georgia air show. No new court date was set Wednesday.

“There’s going to be another air show next year,” Monroe added.


The Wings Over North Georgia air show is Oct. 18 and 19 at Richard B. Russell Regional Airport.

Tickets remain available for the annual air show that will include the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, a barbecue competition and fireworks. Passes can be bought online at, by calling 888-695-0888 or at the gate. Prices and packages vary, with advance general admission at $15 for adults and $10 for children ages 6 to 17. Tickets at the gate are $5 more.

The air show, at 304 Russell Field Road N.E., will open at 10 a.m. Oct. 18, and will close at 10 p.m. Gates will open again at 10 a.m. Oct. 19, and will close at 6 p.m.
Pilots can fly in to the airport to attend the show.

The Oct. 18 air show has been extended to encourage attendees to stay for the Smoke-n-Thunder Concert Series.

The four-hour concert series will conclude with a night air show and fireworks.

Previously posted on Sept. 27:

A Floyd County Superior Court judge is scheduled to hear arguments next month about whether guns can be taken to the Wings Over North Georgia air show.

Chief Judge Walter Matthews is slated to hear from attorneys on Oct. 8 about a lawsuit filed by and Dan Haithcock, a Cumming resident who said he plans to attend the air show.

The air show is Oct. 18-19 at Richard B. Russell Regional Airport. Officials have said firearms are prohibited.

Attorney John Monroe, a Roswell lawyer representing the plaintiffs, argues in court filings that the state’s appeals court already has ruled in GeorgiaCarry.orgs favor in a similar, previous case. According to Monroe, the appeals court found that Coweta County’s ordinance banning firearms from county-owned recreation areas was contrary to state law.

“Defendants simply cannot prevail on the merits of this case, and their insistence on enforcing an illegal ordinance is frivolous,” Monroe argues.

Floyd County Chief Deputy Tom Cald­well has said because air show organizers are renting public property, they are allowed under state law to dictate what’s permitted inside the show.

JLC AirShow Management, which runs the show, defended its no-gun policy.

“Would this question even be raised if the show was still conducted at Dobbins ARB — NO!” the Facebook post states. “If those of you supporting this cause feel threatened by coming to this event and need to bear a weapon, may we suggest you consider not attending.”

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