Original story posted 7/2/17
A new “campus carry” bill became valid as of July 1st in the state of Georgia, and while the law was expected to cause some level of controversy, university students seem to have accepted the new law for the most part. For example, a forum organized by Augusta University on Tuesday, August 29th to discuss the new law was only attended by one person. In the wake of that news, the university’s chief of police James C. Lyon noted that he actually hasn’t fielded a single call from fears concerning the new bill, despite initial worries that it would cause controversy.
Georgia House Bill 280 allows people to carry a concealed weapon at public colleges and universities in the state. The bill requires that only those with a state weapons license can carry, and the state emphasized that to acquire a license, you still need to be older than 21, submit your fingerprints and pass a background check. The bill also prohibits concealed weapons from being carried into athletic venues, student housing, faculty offices and areas where high school students are present. With regard to the athletic venue prohibition, due to the popular football atmosphere in the state, the bill allows for concealed carry to happen in venue parking lots, as the practice of tailgating is especially common in the state.
While the bill didn’t generate much public grassroots actions, you can find supporters and critics among the individuals. For example, Earl Kang, a graduate student at the University of Georgia, says that there has always been a concern over someone breaking the law in a campus setting, so “campus carry will give us an opportunity to defend ourselves if necessary.” Betty Leigh Miller, a parent of a university student, also supports the bill, defining her position as such: “In the world we’re living in and everything that’s happening right now, the more people that can stop things from happening the better.” On the other side of the aisle, parent Nag Bondada expressed their worry succinctly: “It’s a distraction. You came here for learning, not for carrying arms, right?”
The main point of debate over the bill has centered around whether campus police could be trusted enough to stop a threat on their own. Despite this new allowance for civilian students to carry a weapon, campus police departments are doing their part to educate for the purpose of avoiding misunderstandings in the future. Chief Lyon says that Augusta University is developing a training program for their students and staff in the near future in order to get them more familiar with how to use their weapons properly and how to react to someone who has a concealed weapon on them. Augusta University Dean of Student Life Scott Wallace notes that the administration is modeling most of its policy on the ones implemented by universities in Texas and Colorado, who also have campus carry laws. “Other states have done this. We’re not trailblazers, in the state of Georgia, for this topic,” Wallace concedes.