Photo by John Nakano

The tragic shootings at Virginia Tech (2007) and Northern Illinois University (2008) sparked a national debate over gun control and renewed a sense of urgency to pass laws deterring gun violence on college campuses.

In 2012, 16 states introduced legislation to allow concealed weapons on campuses and three states introduced legislation prohibiting weapons on campus. None of these bills passed. Today, there are only five states that unequivocally allow carrying concealed weapons on the campuses of public universities; the rest prohibit concealed carry on campus or permit colleges to set their own gun policies.
This year, the Georgia State Legislature is considering House and Senate Bills (HB 512, SB 101) that would allow for concealed carry on the University System of Georgia’s university campuses.

After conversations with concealed carry advocates, members of Tech administration, and many students at Tech—I am convinced that allowing concealed carry on university campuses will not create a safe environment for students.

“In the tragic case of an active shooter on campus, having guns present could undermine our campus safety officials’ ability to adequately protect students.”

In the tragic case of an active shooter on campus, having guns present could undermine our campus safety officials’ ability to adequately protect students—officers can more easily identify potential criminals with guns. A report from TIME magazine stated that New York City police officers are able to hit their target 18% of the time in gunfights. An average student or faculty member, without the benefit of rigorous law enforcement training, is likely to fare far worse, further complicating an already chaotic situation, and unintentionally harming innocent bystanders.

Maintaining the classroom environment as gun-free is critical to fostering open, balanced and non-threatening discussions, especially given the already high stress levels among many students. The collegiate environment is unique in its environmental risk factors. Students live and work in very close proximity and constantly feel the pressure of schoolwork, finances and issues with friends and family. The added prevalence of alcohol consumption and even substance abuse creates an environment that is unusually conducive to physical conflicts and emotional breakdowns.

“Maintaining the classroom environment as gun-free is critical to fostering open, balanced and non-threatening discussions…”

HB-512 was passed with few days left in this legislative session. In order to effectively provide input in the legislative process, Undergraduate and Graduate Presidents Mordel and Kirka, along with student body presidents from eight different campuses—including UGA, GSU and KSU—co-signed a letter to our elected officials expressing opposition to this measure. While this sentiment does not canvass every student’s opinion, the thoughts outlined stem from conversations and experiences with students, campus administrators and members of the Georgia University System over the past few years. Important to note is that for the first time, opposition to concealed carry has been publicly conveyed by all 19 members of the Board of Regents and the University System Chancellor.

Unfortunately, the topic of concealed carry overshadows the more critical issues on our campus: mental health and campus safety. Committing more resources to bettering the learning environment and reducing the amount of unnecessary stress students face would go further in reducing crime, improving student life and changing the national conversation.

Most crimes as reported by the Clery Act Alerts occur on the peripheries of campus where availability of lighting at night is inadequate and little foot traffic exists. Simple solutions such as adding more street lighting and enhancing transportation alternatives for those who live off campus could go a long way to address these concerns without the need for firearms.

Ultimately, concealed carry would likely make college campuses a more dangerous environment. Even if one could make an argument otherwise, it would be irresponsible to do so before addressing the bigger issues of mental health and campus safety.

  • PappyYokum

    I see that the writer is convinced allowing concealed carry will not create a safe environment for students. That is fine. It is also demonstrably true using a news story search that prohibiting guns on campus also has not created a safe environment for students. The writer’s conclusion appears to be based on a distrust and contempt for the students.
    I would like to see an example where a classroom shootout took place on a campus that allowed concealed carry after a class discussion became too emotional. I have not heard of any. My experience is students generally are not even interested in expressing an opinion in such discussions. I know I would feel more confident in being open in sharing my views in a classroom environment if I was packing a piece.
    In example after example campus security and police have been shown to be unreliable in protecting students on campus. Statistically, the average annual fatalities from campus shootings has increased over five fold since the school “gun-free” zone law was passed in 1990.
    When concealed carry was liberalized in Florida, gun-shy pundits predicted a bloodbath would result. It didn’t happen. Violent crime has dropped in Florida since then.
    People are not monsters looking for an opportunity to shoot each other if given the means. They do not need to be restrained. Students go to school to prepare for their futures. They are not going to ruin that future by cavalierly threatening each other or their teachers with guns in class or on campus. That being said, I would feel safer with ten other students ready to defend me and themselves if a random lunatic happens to come in rather than have to wonder when campus security might arrive.

  • williamdiamon

    Actually you are wrong about citizen and police. Citizens have a better record of hitting their target in a gun fight than police. It’s because police train the same as concealed carry permities but then go about their jobs. Many have not owned gun before becoming officers. Citizens obtain weapons because they want to and practice more.
    Are you suggesting students are safer unarmed in the face of a live shooter? Isn’t that why we call the police in the first place, because they have guns? Also CCW permities are arrested much less than the average citizen, because of the intense responsibility of carrying.

  • I’m a cop and a firearms trainer. I also have extensive training in active shooter response. The premise a CCW permit holder would hinder my ability to save people is ludicrous. They are going to be there long before I will. Nearly all active shooter situations are solved by an armed person present at attempted mass killings. Now why would students feel intimidated by a person carrying a concealed weapon? Like they would pull out their gun during a poly sci debate – give me a break.

    • Chooch0253

      Given the posting you made, if you are a cop, you are a rental cop, a security guard or you are a cop in a town with one traffic light. Not a single law enforcement official I have queried on this issue thinks it is a wise idea to let college age people walk around on a campus with loaded guns. Not one. Some are family members who have been in law enforcement for over 20 years. It is a medical fact that the human brain does not complete developing from a physical stand point until after age 25. That includes the frontal lobe area which is responsible for formulating a cognitive risk analysis versus reacting to emotions. Most people younger than 25 years of age react on emotions and stress before cognitive risk analysis is applied. In other words they react to anger, fear, pressure, or any number of stress matters emotionally before thinking about the consequences of the actions they commit. They may know right from wrong but react on emotions not a thought process. That is why they take risks that they would not take when older. Now give them a loaded gun and some alcohol……..

      • williamdiamon

        I think it depends on the character of the person with the gun. Criminals don’t seam to have much issue with the things you describe, brain size, alcohol etc., they seam to be able to commit their evil just fine. This is the real issue, not your hypothetical musings. Lets also remember not all students are younger than 25 yrs. Licenced concealed firearm carriers have a lower rate of arrest than disarmed folks, they know the consequences of foolish actions.

  • judas priest

    This absolutely blows my mind that when I start school at a public university, they are allowed to restrict my 2nd amendment right while my taxes pay for their operation costs. The Constitution, the laws, the founding fathers, and the United States all are supposed to protect all minorities from having their rights taken away especially by a majority group who disagrees about whether or not you should have that right. These students and university leaders are taking away people’s Constitutionally protected right, because they have an irrational fear of guns. That’s like me working at a public library and not allowing “whatever minority” to walk through the door, because I have a fear of them and can’t concentrate to do my job because I’m distracted.