Georgia governor approves carrying concealed guns on campus

Cheryl Sanders
May 6, 2017

Gov. Deal vetoed a similar bill previous year.

Opponents and supporters alike agree that the law Deal signed Thursday could create complicated landscapes for concealed weapon permit-holders to navigate when they carry their handguns on campus.

Campus carry is now the law of the land in Colorado, Utah, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Oregon, Texas, and Idaho.

Campus carry will take effect July 1, 2017 on all University System of Georgia campuses. He said students at campuses where guns are known to be disallowed are easy prey for assailants.

The campus gun measure was Deal's highest-profile decision in an otherwise tame legislative session, and it came less than a week before his deadline to either sign or veto legislation. But on Thursday, he signed this year's version, issuing a written statement saying the exemptions lawmakers had added won his support.

Now they'll need to develop new protocols, since every campus is a collection of places where the prohibitions may or may not apply. They say professors at Georgia universities could seek jobs elsewhere and others could turn down job offers.

Campus leaders have said that allowing concealed handguns will make it much more hard for officers to maintain security in extreme situations. Georgia Tech administrators and police have been planning for possible implementation since an earlier bill was under consideration a year ago and will work with the USG and share more information leading up to July 1.

Additional areas where guns will still be prohibited include student housing areas such as dorms and fraternity or sorority houses, athletic event facilities, faculty and administrative offices, disciplinary hearings and classes that are part of college and career academy, or other specialized schools.

Dallin Larsen, a 30-year-old doctoral student at the University of Georgia, said he often feels nervous leaving the library at 1 or 2 a.m. and walking across campus to his truck.

Deal has said that he worries about "defenseless" college students being targeted by criminals on their way to and from campus. "I had made some of these suggestions past year, and they were not heeded", Deal said of the legislative compromise in a recent interview.

He acknowledges that carrying won't always be practical under the new law and said he'll follow the terms.

Violations by "weapons carry license holders" are misdemeanors, punishable by $25 fines and no jail time. Permit-holders must be at least 21 - or at least 18 with proof of basic training or active service in the military. The addition of Georgia makes ten campus carry states, or one-fifth of the country. Training offered to gun owners and required of law enforcement can help prevent both problems, said Saccenti, the chief of police at Furman University in SC. "So the question now is: How can we work within this and make it better for our campuses?"

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