Georgia lawmakers passed legislation allowing licensed weapons permit holders to carry firearms on college campuses. AJC FILE
Photo: For the AJC
Photo: For the AJC

Georgia college officials grapple with new campus gun law

University System of Georgia officials said Thursday they will begin working on how to implement the state’s new rules allowing weapons permit holders to carry firearms on campus, directing schools to hold off making any changes until hearing from them first.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed the “campus carry” legislation Thursday evening. The bill signing comes at busiest time of the school year -- during final exams and graduation ceremonies.

While the bill has some restrictions, such as only law enforcement can carry a firearm at a sporting venue or student housing, many students, faculty and even some in law enforcement wonder how the new law will work.

Interview requests for police chiefs at some of the state’s largest public institutions were referred to the University System of Georgia. The system released a statement Thursday that said it will give guidance to all schools, which include the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State and Kennesaw State.

“Please do not make any changes to your policies until you receive this final guidance,” USG Chancellor Steve Wrigley said in a brief statement.

Some law enforcement officials, such as Valdosta police Chief Brian Childress, said state leaders have offered no guidance about enacting the guidelines. He’s also worried students with firearms could harm themselves or someone else in an active shooter situation. Childress blasted the legislation at a news conference Thursday.

“This is a mistake. It defies all of the logic and the data,” Childress said in a telephone interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Deal is scheduled to give the keynote address at Valdosta State University’s commencement service Saturday evening.

Proponents of House Bill 280 believe the law will make campuses safer by allowing students with weapons permits to protect themselves. Supporters say the legislation also protects the rights of Georgia gun owners. 

Critics cite research from places such the Johns Hopkins Center on Gun Policy & Research that conclude guns on college campuses would likely increase assaults and suicide attempts on campuses.

University of Georgia senior Lisa Williams, who has been on the institution’s student judiciary, said the school will have to change its student code of conduct.

“Right now, it says no firearms are allowed on campus,” said Williams, who was disappointed with Deal’s decision to sign the bill.

University of North Georgia assistant English professor Matt Boedy recently sent administrators a list of questions he and others have about the legislation, such as who will determine whether a gun holder has a license permit, will the college have to pay for additional insurance and can faculty prevent students from carrying a firearm into their offices?

Boedy said he’s worried the law will result in some of his colleagues spending less time on campus out of fear a shooting may occur.

“It would radically change what we do,” said Boedy.

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