House committee talks guns on campus

Photo by John Nakano

House Bill 29 (HB 29), the bill that would allow those with concealed weapons licenses to bring firearms onto college campuses, is now being considered in the House Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security. The bill is sponsored by Republican Charles Gregory of Kennesaw and Republican Ed Setzer of Acworth.

The bill would change the Official Georgia Code Annotated “relating to the carrying and possession of firearms, so as to repeal prohibitions against carrying a firearm on to postsecondary institution campuses.” The bill would allow those individuals with Georgia Firearms licenses to bring weapons onto the campuses of public universities, colleges and technical schools. The license requires the owner to be 21 years of age and be clear of felonies and certain other crimes among other requirements.

52.33 percent of students opposed allowing conceal and carry on campus

“It’s a property rights issue,” Gregory said. “Government should be in the business of protecting the rights of individuals.”

Student opinions on concealed carry of weapons on campus are narrowly divided. In 2010, the last time Tech students were polled on the question, 52.33 percent of students opposed allowing conceal and carry on campus according to former student body president Alina Staskeviciusan in a 2010 interview.

“Our responsibility was to take those survey results and put them together into one message to share with the outside world and what Georgia Tech thinks,” said Undergraduate Student body President Eran Mordel. “Right now we’re opposing concealed carry on the campus.”

The legislative bodies of SGA, however, have not been unanimous in opposition. When SGA sponsored a bill to oppose campus carry in 2010, several representatives voted against the measure including then-Representative Mordel. Since the,n Mordel has changed his position and has been against campus carry.

On the other hand, Students for Concealed Carry on Campus (SCCC) has been a major supporter of HB 29 and similar bills that have been considered in the Georgia Legislature. The organization was founded in 2007 in the wake of the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007 to promote laws that allow students to carry weapons on college campuses for the purpose of self-defense.
“We condone the ability of students to defend themselves here on campus, just as they can anywhere off campus with a valid Georgia weapons license,” said Robert Eagar, President of the Tech chapter of the SCCC.

…Peterson referred to the mix of alcohol, guns and 20,000 students on campus, calling it a “terrible combination… I think it is a recipe for disaster.

President Peterson and the University System of Georgia, however, have suggested that allowing concealed carry would be bad for student safety. Both have had historical oppositions to concealed carry.

Speaking to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Peterson referred to the mix of alcohol, guns and 20,000 students on campus as a “terrible combination… I think it is a recipe for disaster.”

A joint statement released this month by Technical College System of Georgia Commissioner Ron Jackson and University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby stated that they were “united in stating that the best course of action is to continue to follow current Georgia law as it relates to guns on campus.”

The current law is working and is the best and most effective way to protect and ensure the safety of students, faculty and staff.”
It further stated that “[e]motions can run high – particularly at athletic events – and the current law ensures such emotions have the most appropriate means of expression.

“Georgia Tech follows the University System of Georgia policy and the State of Georgia law,” said Matthew Nagel, Media Relations Specialist for the Institute.

While Gregory is hopeful that the legislation will succeed, he has worries about the changes being made in committee. There is a concern that the bill will be combined with other bills and altered to the point where it will have trouble passing both a committee vote and a vote on the House floor.

“I don’t expect House Bill 29 to move forward independently,” Gregory said. “I’m concerned it will be compromised.”