On Feb. 10, a Tech professor set out an email to his students detailing an issue that had occurred in an in-person lecture class. A student in the course had been seen with a gun, and the professor, unsure of the legality of it, called GTPD. GTPD arrived at the scene and eventually decided that no state laws were broken and that the police captain would meet with the class to discuss the issue. In addition, the professor offered a virtual option for the course for the time being in case any students were uncomfortable coming to class.
In light of this, a lot of discussions were sparked around Tech’s campus carry laws. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the law, Campus Carry, more formally referred to as House Bill 280, is the legislation that allows students with valid carry licenses to conceal carry handguns in public colleges and universities. The law includes many nuances such as barring conceal carry in office suites, child care facilities and residence halls.
However, students are allowed to conceal carry guns in classrooms, which can create issues since the presence of guns in classrooms may serve to drastically change classroom dynamics. When the law first came out, many professors spoke out about their concerns about teaching students who they knew were carrying a gun. Regular actions, such as discussing a grade with a student, took on a more stressful edge as professors were forced to balance their job as an educator with their own personal beliefs and fears. Most professors, in some capacity, feel responsible for the safety and wellbeing of their students and faced with an armed student, they need to make a split-second decision without enough information. Furthermore, since professors do not know which students would be carrying weapons in their class, the sight of a student with a gun forces them into an uncomfortable and difficult situation of risk assessment. In the incident earlier this week, the professor called GTPD, but the entire incident caused panic and stress for the students and professor alike.
Although it was evaluated that no state laws were violated in this particular incident, the reality is that the presence of a gun in an academic setting creates discomfort and anxiety for many — regardess of whether laws allow it or not. While it would be very difficult to actually change the legislation to force students who were carrying weapons to self-identify, Tech could potentially incentivize students to disclose their status to at least their professor, allowing professors to have the necessary information to create the safest possible environment with the current legislation.
Moreover, and more importantly, we urge Tech to educate the student body on House Bill 280 and the very real possibility that a student in their class may be in possession of a concealed gun. In this way, students — especially those who are out of state or just unfamiliar with the law — are made aware before they even fully begin the course.
In addition, by including information on campus carry in the syllabus, professors could discuss it in class and give students who campus carry the option to privately and voluntarily identify themselves. In addition, we encourage GTPD to speak about campus carry and gun safety at various events, especially freshman-centered ones such as FASET.
We as students cannot elimiate the bill that already exists, but through campus carry informational sessions with gun safety lessons, we hope to make students feel more comfortable about existing on a campus that permits campus carry. At the end of the day, no matter whether the legislation is amended, whether guns or permitted and banned, someone will be uncomfortable.
The best we can do is make sure that students are aware about the campus carry laws. Tech made the correct decision by having the police captain speak in the class after, but it was a reaction to a situation that could’ve been prevented in the first place. By working on educating both students and professors, Tech can create a safer campus for all.