Campus carry awaits Senate approval

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Erin McGuiness

The Georgia House of Representatives passed a bill, HB 859, Monday that would allow students and staff to carry guns on state colleges and university campuses.

The House voted 113-59 on the campus carrying bill and it’s currently being discussed in the Senate, awaiting a vote.

The bill would allow anyone 21 and older with a gun permit to carry a concealed handgun on public college campuses excluding athletic facilities, student housing and fraternity and sorority houses.

A recent string of robberies at Georgia State University, has been an influential factor in the increased support among students and lawmakers to push the bill in the Georgia House, according to 11Alive in Atlanta.

If the Senate passes the campus-carrying bill, it will require students and staff to obtain a concealed carrying permit in which that person is subjected to a background check and is fingerprinted for safety precautions.

The Board of Regents, which regulates the state’s 29 public colleges and universities, has “fiercely opposed campus carrying,” according to reports from 11Alive in Atlanta.

Gov. Nathan Deal and House Speaker David Ralston have defended the bill and think that the opposition “lacks validity,” according to a statement from Deal.

Laura McCullough, Interim Chief of Police at Georgia Southern University, says that the campus police department will abide by all laws of the State of Georgia as well as any direction given to them by the Board of Regents but says she is not sure that the school environment is the best place to have guns.

McCullough also said that the campus police department at GSU believe that proper education and training are essential for any and every person who wishes to own a gun adding that campus police will be working closely with the new Shooting Sports Education Center to ensure students learn basic gun safety.

“We currently are teaching how to respond in the case of an active shooter to anyone who is interested. Our crime prevention officer regularly teaches this course to anyone who requests it,” McCullough said.

Many people, including the Georgia Board of Regents, are in opposition to the bill saying that it could create unsafe environments for students and faculty.

“I applaud the Board of Regents and their efforts to keep the students in the University System of Georgia safe. I think the Senate should consider all the feedback that they receive from groups and bodies such as the Board of Regents,” Glover said.

Georgia Southern sophomore civil engineering major, Gregory Strachan is in opposition to the campus-carrying bill saying it will only escalate a dangerous situation.

“You can pass a background check and still lose your sanity the next day, so the background checks are not really going to help you with that sense,” Strachan said in regards to gun owners having to obtain a background check to get a concealed carry permit.

Some students agree with Strachan that the bill is not safe to be carried on-campus.

“I think it’s not safe because a lot of violence is already going around so that (campus carrying) wouldn’t help the cause,” Kingsley Ukaogo, sophomore chemistry major, said. “I think it would increase the amount of shooters, honestly, on campus because more people being allowed to have guns is going to provoke more violence and what not.”

If the bill gets passed in the Senate, Georgia would join nine other states – Texas, Colorado, Idaho, Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah, Wisconsin- who have adopted some sort of a campus carry law.

A few states such as Texas and Kansas are still in the transition process of implementing their version of a campus carrying bill

The University of Texas’s (UT) Associate Vice President of Campus Safety & Security, Gerald Harkins, said that there is “concern and strong opposition” from the students and staff at UT but believes this is greatly attributed to a lack of understanding of the law and the bill.

Although there is some opposition, some students support concealed campus carrying at Georgia Southern University.

“If another civilian comes on campus with a gun we need to be able to protect ourselves at all times not just hide so I think that’s a good bill to be passed, I think it should be lowered honestly to 18 but that’s just me,” Hayden Victer, sophomore business major, said.

Victer argues that if someone was crazy enough to shoot an individual over a dispute, that person is going to gain access to a gun regardless if they have a carrying permit to have a gun on campus or not.

“All I’m looking at is it benefits this campus as a whole because it makes it safer,” Victer said. “I would say a person coming on campus would think twice if there’s a lot more people who have guns because they’re more prone to get shot at.”

Photo courtesy of Kiara Griffin.