Thousands of college students are returning to campuses across the state this month, armed with dorm supplies, backpacks and possibly stun guns, now allowed on campuses.
Here’s what you need to know about the new law:
1. What is the law?
Students and employees, 18 years and older, at Georgia’s public colleges and universities can now legally carry stun guns on campus. That includes in buildings, dorms and classrooms of the 29 institutions of the University System of Georgia and the 22 institutions in the Technical College System of Georgia.
The law, House Bill 792, and sponsored by Rep. Buzz Brockway, was passed by the legislature earlier this year, signed by Gov. Nathan Deal, and took effect July 1.
The stun guns allowed under the law, formally known as electroshock weapons, must be models that are commercially available, and not the more powerful weapons used by police and other law enforcement officers.
2. What about dual-enrolled students?
The law allows students under age 18 to also carry stun guns if they are enrolled in in classes on the college campus. Many Georgia colleges operate dual enrollment programs in which high school students are enrolled in college classes for credit before graduating from high school.
3. Self-defense only, please
The law requires stun guns to be used in cases of self-defense. There had been some concern that there could be campus shenanigans with students zapping each other for fun.
Campus police are working on educating students about the new law, emphasizing that the weapons are to be used only for self-defense, said Antonio Long, police chief at Atlanta Metropolitan State College.
Campus police chiefs and presidents also met in June to discuss campus safety issues, including the new stun gun law.
Brockway’s advice to students: act responsibly.
“I believe we can trust college students,” he said. “We trust them to vote and fight wars, I trust them with being able to protect themselves in a responsible fashion. I hope no one has to use a stun gun on campus, but I hope it gives folks peace of mind if they choose to carry one.”
4. How we got here
Gun rights advocates have long pushed to allowed guns on college campuses. The push got louder and support grew this year following several high-profile cases of robberies, including some inside Georgia State University’s library.
After talking to college students concerned about the crimes, Brockway pitched the stun gun bill as an alternative to having guns on campus, and as way for students to protect themselves without having to use lethal weapons. The bills was dubbed “campus carry lite,” and went on to be signed into law.
5. Still no guns allowed
Deal ultimately vetoed the campus carry bill that would have allowed people with a weapons permit who are 21 years and older to carry guns on campuses.
That means students and employees, no matter the age, are still prohibited from carrying guns on campus. Other weapons, such as knives and bow and arrows are still illegal.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.