GEORGIA — Since July 1, anyone across Georgia with a valid state weapons license can carry firearms on public college campuses in specific areas.
House Bill 280, signed by Gov. Nathan Deal May 4, overwhelmingly passed in the General Assembly earlier this year.
The bill does prohibit carrying a concealed weapon in certain areas of a college campus:
Buildings or property used for athletic sporting events
Student housing, including but not limited to dormitories, fraternity and sorority houses
Any preschool or childcare space
Any room or space being used for classes related to a college and career academy or other specialized school
Any room or space used for classes in which high school students are enrolled through a dual enrollment program, including, but not limited to, classes related to the “Move on When Ready Act”
Any faculty, staff or administrative offices
Rooms where disciplinary proceedings are conducted
Now, local schools have executed the changes on their campuses.
Alison Tyrer, senior executive director of communications for the Technical College System of Georgia, which includes Lanier Technical College, said the system office provided uniform guidance in advance for the colleges in addressing any concerns by faculty, staff or students.
She said the focus of their colleges, and their goal, is to always provide a safe and secure environment for the campus community.
Mike Blouin, chief of the Gwinnett Technical College Police Department, said their focus, too, remains on providing a safe and secure environment for the campus community.
To do that, Blouin said they are taking a “smart and safe” approach in the implementation of the bill.
“The bill does not give Gwinnett Tech the discretion to prohibit handguns on our campus or to add any additional exceptions to the ability to carry handguns, beyond those already outlined in the law,” Blouin said. “Our expectation is that individuals with weapons carry licenses understand and follow the law.”
The colleges were aware the bill was on the horizon and prepared for its enactment.
Blouin said they implemented a thorough communication process, which is what they do for any new laws or polices that touch their campuses.
For example, they posted information on their website, conducted training with faculty and staff and the topic is included in their new employee and student orientation programs.
University of North Georgia Chief of Police Justin Gaines said in the few days the bill has been implemented, not much has changed on the campus.
“Today is a normal day as it was yesterday,” Gaines said. “Albeit, our procedures have changed for our response to calls of people with weapons. People who want to carry on campus will have to go to the registrar to find out whether they can or can’t carry. Other than that, it’s business as usual.”
Last year, a similar bill was attempted but ultimately vetoed. According to Deal’s website, House Bill 859 permitted a weapons carry license holder to carry a concealed weapon into certain areas of a college campus that had previously been prohibited.
Deal reportedly voiced “major concerns” regarding that bill due to it not addressing the prohibition of firearms in “sensitive places,” including campus preschools, disciplinary hearings, or faculty and administrative offices.
HB 280 maintains the same restrictions in HB 859, but addresses Deal’s concerns along with other areas on campuses where weapons are not permitted.