April 16, 2016

The New Campus Carry Gun Bill

As of this writing, Governor Deal is still contemplating the new campus gun carry bill, H.B. 869, passed on March 11, 2016. If the bill becomes law, you can take a handgun with you onto a state college or university campus if you have a Georgia Weapons Carry License. However, there will still be some restrictions.

Deal has had the bill for over a month now and it automatically becomes law if he doesn’t veto it by May 3, 2016.

Before the bill passed, Deal had wanted restrictions that gun rights lobbyists kept out, but as time drags on, it looks like Deal may let the bill become law by default.

To summarize the campus carry law, it modifies, or relaxes, the restriction against having a gun on a college campus. In Georgia, so long as the law doesn’t forbid you from possessing a weapon (because you’re a convicted felon or because you’re drunk at the time) then you have almost no restrictions while you’re on your own property, at your own place of business, in your own automobile, or so long as you’re hunting and you have a hunting license.

Georgia law prohibits you from being armed in public away from private property unless you have a Georgia Weapons Carry License. (A lot of people refer to their WCL as a “concealed weapons” permit, but a “public carry” permit is more accurate.)

As a general rule, any non-felon can get a WCL who is at least 21 and has no drug convictions or family violence issues, and who hasn’t been in a mental institution or drug and alcohol in-patient rehab in the last five years. With a WCL, you can take your firearm almost anywhere except court, jail, school, the mental hospital, the polling booth and church (unless the preacher okays it). And you don’t have to conceal your gun. You can carry it in a holster on your hip like Marshall Dillon if that’s what you want to do.

The campus carry bill modifies the restriction related to schools. As of right now, it’s a misdemeanor to take a gun to school if you have a WCL, and a felony if you don’t.  If H.B. 859 becomes law anyone with a WCL can take a gun onto a post-secondary college or university campus, but the gun has to be concealed, such as in a shoulder holster under your coat, or in your purse.

Argument against the bill: A lot has been said about firearms on campus creating new risks of firearms-related violence and accidents, but the greater risk may be that the law interferes with University self-government. The law would force colleges and universities to allow something they would otherwise prohibit, and if professors regard the law as interference with academic freedom, then a brain-drain from Georgia’s post-secondary institutions in response to the law could undermine Georgia’s progress in higher education.

Argument for the bill: Inner-city campuses are dangerous enough to warrant students carrying firearms for self-defense. Armed robberies have even occurred in an inner-city university’s library.

Regardless of your position on the issue, I would always urge you if you want to carry a firearm to make sure you know what you're doing with it. If you don’t know how to handle a firearm you’re not going to protect anything and you're probably a greater risk to yourself.

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