The Georgia General Assembly passed legislation in 2010 that expanded where people with carry permits could take weapons, but churches, colleges and schools were excluded under that law. The law says that students can keep weapons locked in their cars, but not in their dorms or classrooms. Georgia law also prohibits anyone under the age of 21 from carrying a gun for any purpose other than hunting.
The Georgia House may soon be considering House Bill 29, introduced by newly elected state Rep. Charles Gregory, R-Kennesaw, which would allow carrying and possession of firearms on postsecondary school campuses. The bill was pre-filed on Dec. 19, but hasn’t yet been brought forward for committee assignment or debate.
Many legislators, including some from Carroll County, have indicated they are for carrying rights on campus.
The University System of Georgia, however, has lobbied against campus carry and University of West Georgia Police Chief Thomas J. Mackel said Wednesday that he feels firearms and college campuses are not a good mix.
“College campuses have their own set of problems and putting firearms on them will not make them safer places,” Mackel said. “College campuses are now among the safest places in the country. If we allow firearms, I can’t say that.”
He said students often lack maturity and they’re in situations involving alcohol and drugs, which can easily lead to violence.
Students for Concealed Carry is one group pushing for allowing guns on campus. Although the group doesn’t currently have a chapter on the UWG campus, it is active on at least six state campuses, including Georgia Tech, Georgia State, University of Georgia, Kennesaw State University, Southern Polytechnic State University and Clayton State University.
“We’re not trying to say who can carry, but where they can carry,” Kurt Mueller, director of strategy for the national SCC organization, said Wednesday. “Permitted people are not causing problems in other places and it’s reasonable to believe they wouldn’t cause problems on campus.”
Mueller also pointed out that carry permits are only for people age 21 and older and not all students would qualify.
James Camp, Temple, a co-founder of GeorgiaCarry.org, said his group supports House Bill 29 and the right to carry guns on campus.
“It doesn’t open the door for anyone to carry, just those with weapon carry licenses,” Camp said. “They have to go through a background check and it’s only adults, 21 and older. A weapon-carry license is just that. It’s not a license to use a firearm. Other laws govern the use of it, such as anyone using a firearm in a reckless manner or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”
But the public might not be ready for campus-carry. In an exclusive 11 Alive/SurveyUSA poll conducted last week, 65 percent of the respondents said the law should remain as it is, banning guns on campus, while 29 percent said students and staff should be allowed to arm themselves on campus.
Some members of the Carroll County legislative delegation on Wednesday spoke in favor of campus carry.
“As a strong outspoken supporter of our constitutional right to bear arms, I would support campus carry,” District 68 Rep. Dustin Hightower, R-Carrollton, said in a e-mail statement. “When we restrict law abiding citizens from carrying a firearm, we are putting them at a great disadvantage when it comes to protecting themselves against those whom do not respect the law or the lives of others. The reading of the 2nd Amendment has always been quite simple for me, ‘the right of the people to keep and bears Arms, SHALL not be infringed.’ When these cowardly, heartless and misguided individuals commit these massacres on school campuses, they are picking these locations for a reason — and that reason is — they know we have disarmed our law abiding citizens and therefore there is no one to point a gun back in their face.”
District 18 Rep. Kevin Cooke, R-Carrollton said he supports allowing campus carry within the state of Georgia.
"Gun-free zones provide areas where law abiding citizens are unarmed and cannot protect themselves," he said. "Individuals with criminal intent know this and take advantage of it. Removing the 'gun free zone' label from Georgia campuses will allow for those law-abiding citizens, with a carry and conceal permit, the ability to protect themselves.”
Although campus carry legislation hasn’t been introduced in the state Senate, District 28 state Sen. Mike Crane, R-Newnan, indicated Wednesday he supports the idea.
“I support the right for law-abiding citizens to protect themselves by allowing them to choose when, where and what means of defense serves them best,” Crane said. “Restrictions only limit those who obey the law and have no effect on the criminal or mentally unstable elements in our society.”