Monday, Feb. 22, The Georgia House of Representatives recently passed the House Bill (HB) 859, or Campus Carry bill. If passed by the Georgia Senate, the Campus Carry bill will permit anyone with a license to carry, to be able to bring a firearm to any college campus or university in Georgia. There are a few requirements to be able to exercise this right: the carrier must be 21 years or older, firearms must be properly concealed from the public site, firearms are prohibited from entering sporting events, dormitories and fraternity or sorority houses. House Representative Rick Jasperse, the author of HB 859, argues that this bill will help students and faculty protect themselves from sexual assaults and robberies.
“This is a constitutional right and a very important safety measure for all of our citizens,” Jasperse said, “By enacting this legislation, I believe, like statistics have shown, that we will see a reduction in the number of violent crimes on our campuses.” There are some representatives that agree with him. House Representative Mandi L. Ballinger argues that there have been too many incidences where a student has been robbed or assaulted with no way of protecting themselves. “This legislation is common sense and necessary for the protection and safety of our students.”
The House of Representatives agrees that this bill will improve student safety by expanding their second amendment right to college campuses. However, there are some that have concerns about the lack of knowledge and responsibility among the people on campus. Daytime police sergeant of the Clarkston campus Rodney Treadwell believes that weapons training should be a prerequisite to being able to bear arms on college campuses. “My biggest concern is too many people, that are not responsible, having weapons,” Treadwell said, “I think that training is mandatory because even for us [officers] if we do not train we do not understand the concepts, the safety procedures or the responsibilities of owning a firearm.” Unfortunately for Treadwell, HB 709, which would have required campus carriers to have weapons training before receiving permission to carry a firearm on college campuses, failed to pass. Treadwell did assure that campus officers are equipped with prime training for gun-related public incidences, and there are also crisis training events that are available to the public. On the other hand, Treadwell shared that there are dilemmas that some people are not quite prepared for. Treadwell painted a hypothetical scenario of a person who misfires their firearm, shoots and kills a civilian: “Even if it were an accident, [he or she] would be charged with involuntary manslaughter,” the officer explained.
Students have shown both support and dissent for HB 859.
Rachel Quinlan, a Biology major at the Clarkston campus, said “I think this would make schools more dangerous. I walk home at night after class, for people to have guns it’s really scary. The pro to this is that people can protect themselves, there are more cons than I feel pros.”
“I don’t disagree with the bill. I don’t think much would change. I don’t think that the people who have guns are the problem, it’s the people who don’t have the license to carry. It should have restrictions on who carries weapons. I think that if you’re going to carry gun, you should have to register with the school and make sure you’re registered to carry a weapon,” said Alissa Cunningham, a Public Health major at the Clarkston Campus.
Many Professors deem guns on campus as dangerous and reckless. Assistant political science and criminal justice professor at Clarkston campus John Siler expressed his biggest concern that most students will not exercise this right with responsibility. “The thing that is scary for us is that when the students read this, they’ll just say ‘Hey, I can have a gun on campus!’ and disregard ‘if you have a permit,’” Siler said. Siler continued to explain that instructors’ safety would be in danger, “Professors often have to fail students, but sometimes students don’t take that too well,” Siler said. There have been robberies and shootings incidents on or near Georgia State University’s Atlanta campus. Siler explained that he understood that the incidents were an issue, but he did not approve of how the media escalated the students’ fears. “The media gets orgasmic when it comes to stuff on campus happenings,” said Siler, “Yes, the incident was near the campus, but that didn’t matter; the media just used it to hype things up.”
In 2010, the Georgia Legislature attempted to pass the Senate Bill (SB) 308 which required the licenced carrier to have their firearm concealed in the trunk or glove compartment of their vehicle; the bill did not come to fruition. Siler expressed the result of SB 308 not passing as a victory. Unfortunately, not even a decade later, campus carry rears its head once again.
Campus Carry has had various reactions from the Georgia community. There are people who believe that bearing arms on college grounds will resolve campus assaults. However, there are people who believe that this bill will bring harm rather fulfill its purpose and should not be passed. Students and staff did not understand how students were to conceal their weapon if firearms are the not allowed where most of them sleep. There were also concerns about the lack of training and how accessible guns and permits to carry are. As of Mar. 7, HB 859 has a 42 percent chance of passing according to the AJC’s Georgia Legislative Navigator.