Students on the University of North Georgia Gainesville campus expressed support Friday for the bill signed this week by Gov. Nathan Deal allowing permitted, concealed carry of weapons in some areas of public college and university campuses.
House Bill 280, which becomes law July 1, makes it legal for those with a Georgia weapons carry license to have a concealed weapons in some campus areas previously prohibited. But the law continues to make it illegal to carry a concealed weapon in many areas, including: sites of athletic events, student housing, any preschool or childcare space, any space used for classes related to a college and career academy or other specialized school, any space used for classes where high school students are enrolled, faculty, staff, or administration offices and any rooms where disciplinary proceedings are conducted.
UNG spokeswoman Sylvia Carson said UNG is waiting for guidance from the University System of Georgia about where on campus it will be legal to carry a concealed weapon “because the language of the bill is not specific.”
“We believe the new exemptions improve the bill,” Carson said in statement. “We prefered current law, but are reviewing the legislation to see how it could be implemented at UNG on the July 1 effective date.”
The Georgia concealed carry permit requires a criminal history record check and background check “preventing those with serious criminal and/or mental health histories from obtaining the licenses,” according to a statement released by the governor’s office.
Most students who talked to The Times Friday morning supported the bill, but some had concerns.
“Personally, I’d say it’s a step in the right direction,” said Austin Graybeal of Gainesville. “I would be on board with the full campus carry, however, I would be hesitant that there’s not any kind of requirements for training. We live in North Georgia and everybody has guns here. Maybe not all of them should have guns.”
Steven Corrales of Buford had similar concerns.
“I think that should be more rigorous to be able to get a gun,” he said. “I do like the bill. People should be able to protect others and themselves. Even if there are no guns allowed, it doesn’t stop somebody with bad intentions from being able to walk in with a gun. All citizens should be able to have a gun wherever.”
Lesleigh Knotts of Flowery Branch said the bill “might make things a little safer,” while Jasmine Reid of New Jersey said she fears some may overreact to a situation.
“I’m OK with it, but in my opinion, I feel like in some situations, people won’t be able to read (the situation) very well and they might act in a moment when they might not need to,” she said.
Maya Jain of Roswell and Matthew Shepherd of Dahlonega both said they would consider getting a permit at some point.
“I think it is a good idea to have some sort of concealed weapon because there are a lot of break-ins that you hear of these days,” Jain said.
Shepherd said a recent bomb threat left him and other students feeling unsafe.
“I think it would be beneficial,” he said.
State Rep. Matt Dubnik said the law will only apply to public colleges and universities, not private ones.
“If you are a law-abiding citizen who has a Georgia weapons carry permit, this is just an extension of those rights,” Dubnik said. “This will allow students and faculty alike to protect themselves when they are on campus and moving to and from campus.”
State Rep. Lee Hawkins said students would have to be 21 or older to be able to get the permit.
“Those are typically seniors or graduate students,” Hawkins said. “It really addresses students who are may be a day or night student because they can’t carry it into living quarters. What you’re doing is restoring Second Amendment rights of people who are typically going to night school and many of them are possibly even veterans coming back to get an education. I think it’s a reasonable balance.”