The Georgia House of Representatives passed a bill Feb. 22 to legalize the carry of concealed weapons on public college campuses.
Bill 859, otherwise known as “Campus Carry,” allows any student 21 or over with a concealed weapons license to carry a gun anywhere on a public college or university campus with the exception of residence halls, Greek-affiliated housing and athletic events, according to an online version of the bill found on the Georgia General Assembly website.
The bill then went to be passed by the Georgia State Senate on March 11 in a 2-1 vote, and now it awaits approval by Governor Nathan Deal.
Mercer University is a private college, so the bill does not yet affect our campus. Some students and faculty still have concerns.
“College is often the first time many young adults have been away from their homes . . . As Dean of Students, I would not want to make it easier for students going through that transitional period to have access to guns. I think it would create a more dangerous — not safer — educational environment,” said Douglas Pearson.
Other members of the university held differing opinions on the new bill, arguing that it will make universities safer, despite the fact that it has no effects on Mercer’s campus.
“I have been waiting for Campus Carry to pass for a long time. It is a good step forward for the right to bear arms in the state,” said Austin Paul, chairman of Mercer College Republicans.
Following this bill, the House also passed Bill 792 or “Campus Carry Lite,” which allows students of any age to carry electroshock weapons such as tasers and stun-guns. This bill also only applies to public colleges and universities and has no impact on Mercer.
The bill was passed in coordination with Campus Carry as an alternative to students who do not want to carry actual guns but still want to protect themselves on their respective public college campuses.
Some students, however, felt that neither bill will make campuses safer.
“Maybe they should pass laws strengthening the security of college campuses with more police officers and emergency boxes and implementing faster response times. There are alternatives to opening up safe spaces of learning to potential violence,” said Desirrae Jones, the president of Mercer’s Young Democrats organization.
Mercer’s current policy on weapons is to have every firearm tagged and checked into Mercer Police upon arrival at the university. You can find the policy and further information in the Student Code of Conduct.
Currently MerPo does not allow any weapons or firearms on campus, including storage in a personal vehicle — with the exception of students who are required to carry weapons as per their official licensed duty, such as serving as a police officer or participating in drills for ROTC.
“Personally, I would feel extremely unsafe if guns were allowed on our campus . . . I like our current policy of any weapons of any kind being checked into MerPo immediately when they arrive on campus,” said Andy Digh, a professor of computer science and freshman advisor at the university.
Despite the controversy over the issue, many students and faculty agreed that the implementation of Campus Carry and Campus Carry Lite should be left up to individual universities and that the concerns of students and faculty needs to be taken into consideration.
“This is an issue that the students and faculty should have a majority of the say on since it is our home, our education and our safety,” said Digh.