Students weigh in on campus carry legislation

Campus weapon control is still on the radar for both the apolitical and outspoken student.

At a recent interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC), Institute President G.P. “Bud” Peterson stated his opposition to firearms on campus, specifically concealed weapons.

Among his points, Peterson cited possible weapon misuse, the unlikely event that a major attack will occur on campus and that weapons are not the answer to crimes on and surrounding campus in the first place.

This issue resurfaced up when the Ga. legislature announced a bill that would relax restrictions on where weapons may be carried, including college campuses and public buildings; this is a continued effort from past state bills to edit the Official Code of Georgia regarding firearms. Currently, weapons are not allowed on or within 1000 feet of schools, including college campuses.

“This law has always created complications with picking up and dropping off students living on campus before and after [Marksmanship] club-sponsored events,” said David Wilkes, president of Tech’s Marksmanship Club. “For example, in a situation where it is unfeasible to drop off firearms and ammunition before returning guest members to campus, the students must be dropped off 1000 feet beyond the perimeter of campus, often in the late evening and after dark. This type of situation creates a clear risk of the student being robbed while walking back to the dormitories in the dark.”

Of the 40-45 million handgun owners, as estimated by the NRA, a key issue is the transportation and accessibility of weapons, notably concealed carry and possession in public spaces.

In Georgia, about 300,000 residents own guns. If Georgia relaxed these restrictions it would be one in a small handful of states that allow concealed weapons on campus.

Since most students on Tech’s campus are under 21, the impact of such a policy here may be more obvious just off-campus, like in Home Park, or on the perimeter of campus. On campus, the impact could be more obvious with faculty and staff.

“It’s not the faculty and staff I’m worried about. Tech hired them because they’re capable, responsible leaders in their fields,” Rob Agocs, first-year ME, said. “I feel that if someone, regardless of their status as a student or not, is willing to go through the process of legally obtaining a firearm, they’ll probably be responsible enough to know the risks involved in mixing their possession of a firearm with their college environment.”

Psychology Professor Jack Feldman believes that the weapons aren’t as much the issue as is the personal preparedness of their users.

“There are moral and legal responsibilities involved. Part of acquiring skill is the need to meet these responsibilities, to minimize possible harm to innocent others as well as to protect one’s self,” Feldman said, “Skill, by the way, isn’t just about shooting; it’s about awareness of one’s environment, of ways to disengage and de-escalate confrontations, to avoid the need for violent action. The best way to win a fight is to not be there when it starts.”

In his interview Peterson made the point that guns aren’t the answer to the frequent robberies just off-campus, rather the students should be more alert, saying, “I am not trying to blame the victims, but they aren’t being smart.”

“I can certainly understand President Peterson’s reasoning from a political standpoint. I do not, however, agree with his rationale,” Wilkes said, “Allowing [concealed carry] permit holders on campus will make it just like any other area of society where they can carry legally.”

The College Democrats and Kristofer Carta, fourth-year HTS and president of the club, however, fully agree with and support Peterson, and they are pleased that he is so outspoken on the issue.

“If anything, Tech will be much less safe with stressed and often depressed students walking on campus carrying firearms,” Carta said, “With all respect towards the Second Amendment, I am extremely personally opposed to the ownership of handguns, the purpose for which are only ending another human being’s life. Bringing another gun into the equation [of confronting an assailant] can only have negative consequences.”

Clubs on campus like the Marksmanship Club and the College Democrats, are strongly involved in the political aspect. The Tech chapter of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus have even organized “empty holster” demonstrations to protest the rules they see as anti-defense.

Handguns aren’t the only possible firearm on campus; rifles and shotguns are also potential newcomers to Tech grounds.

Zac Churney, first-year ME, said, “I don’t have a problem with concealed handguns, but anything bigger would probably be a little overkill. You don’t need a shotgun.”

In Atlanta, anyone with a permit may carry a gun to coffee shops, parks, and on MARTA. Places like the airport and government buildings are, however, no-holster zones. There was a recent case, however, where MARTA employees stopped Christopher Raissi as he carried a firearm to a station. The federal district judge on the case initially ruled that MARTA had probable cause to stop him, but the final ruling was in favor of Raissi.

To carry a firearm outside the home or place of business, the owner must hold a valid permit. The requirements to carry firearms ensure the owner is registered with the state, has a clean criminal record, is mentally sound and is at least 21 years old.

Concealed carry covers firearms, combat knives, bludgeons and any other dangerous weapon not openly visible. In Fulton County, applicants must pay $60.44, sign paperwork, submit to a background check and have fingerprints on file.