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Campus carry: the armed and educated

There are guns on campus. Whether this is frightening or empowering is up to each individual, but the reality remains: Students, faculty and staff can be armed.

Despite the weaponry, Georgia State has not descended into the lawlessness of the Wild West. And this isn’t new: The right to carry is lawful and has been since 2017, when House Bill 280 was passed into state law. 

However, legally carrying isn’t as simple as owning a gun and tucking it into your waistband. Here’s what students need to know about how the law applies on Georgia State’s campuses.

To start, there are quite a few regulations and terms that gun owners must follow to maintain the law.

In the state of Georgia, citizens age 21 and over can apply for and obtain a weapons carry license at their local courthouse, given that they pass a background check. The license grants the right to carry a concealed handgun. Those carrying weapons may not intentionally display their weapon unless they intend to use them for the safety of themselves or others. 

Other limitations exist: Someone cannot carry weapons in government buildings, courthouses, jails, state mental facilities, places of worship or within 150 feet of polling facilities. Until 2017, public university campuses were off limits too. 

HB 280, commonly referred to as the “campus carry” bill, changed that, allowing weapons carry license holders to carry their handguns on public university campuses, including Georgia State. 

However, this is not a blanket permit that allows students to brandish guns anywhere they may desire. Handguns are the only firearms that can be licensed to carry. No rifles of any sort are permitted. Additionally, there are specific places in which guns — no matter the licensing — cannot be taken. 

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All student housing — Piedmont Central, Piedmont North, Patton Hall, the Commons, Greek housing and University Lofts — are off limits. The sports arenas, like GSU Sports Arena, are weapons-free too. Any childcare centers and faculty offices are restricted, and guns are not allowed in any disciplinary hearing regarding a violation of the student code of conduct.  

Students and faculty with proper licensing are authorized to carry in classrooms; but, if there are any high school students dual-enrolled in a class, weapon carry is no longer allowed.

At the bottom of the registration page on GoSolar is a “campus carry information” tab. Here, students can see if any of their classes have dual-enrolled high school students, preventing campus carry. 

If a licensed gun carrier takes a handgun into any of these off-limits places, the first offense consists of being charged with a misdemeanor and a $25 fine and with no jail time. 

On the other hand, if someone without a liscence is caught carrying in any of the restricted areas on campus, they will be charged with a felony. If convicted, they can be fined up to $10,000 and must serve between two and 10 days of imprisonment. 

Information about the law can be found on some Georgia State websites, but for a complex issue such as campus carry, some students feel the school hasn’t informed them enough. 

“I don’t think as a student I’ve been given a proper education about the law,” Eric Gilyard, a student at Georgia State, said. 

Some students are still unaware of the law, even years after it being enacted.

“I had no idea what the laws were on campus,” Hannah Kregel, another student, said. 

Gilyard questions the danger of an armed student’s emotional volatility. 

“Personally, I don’t think students should carry concealed because everyone has different emotions and different rationales,” Gilyard said. “I don’t ever want to be in a situation where someone’s emotions get the best of them and we have an incident on campus.”

One student who carries on campus legally, who requested anonymity to protect their identity, said it’s important to consider that some will carry regardless of the law. 

“The people who are going to follow the law are the people that are really affected by it,” they said. “[If] campus carry were illegal, the people who don’t abide by the law are still going to be carrying. So, by making it legal, the weapons that we’re adding are to law-abiding citizens.”  

Gilyard argues that if students are worried about their safety, then there should just be an increase in security on campus, instead of implementing campus carry.

“What situation would you possibly be able to pull out your handgun and use it on campus?” Gilyard said. “If you feel that strongly that we’re not safe here, why wouldn’t you ask for a greater reform to campus security policies?” 

“For an open campus like Georgia State, it makes more sense to have campus carry, because it is in the middle of the city, but personally, I just feel that guns are kind of unnecessary,” Kregel said. 

Despite opinions, the fact remains: Students and faculty can legally carry on Georgia State’s campus now. 

The anonymous student who carries shared some advice to anyone interested in arming themselves. 

“It is a big deal. There is a lot to learn about firearms and the safety of them,” they said. “So, don’t take it lightly, and if you’re going to do it, do it by all the right steps.” 

They advised that someone assures they are following all laws and are familiar with the weapon they choose and how to use it safely.

“And lastly, keep it a secret,” the student said. “That’s the point of this law — it’s not something to go walking around showing off to people with. The point of this is to have that added layer of safety and not to show off.” 

There are sobering implications with deadly weapons, especially while carrying them on a campus for the sake of personal safety. 

Kregel asks those who carry to consider the implications.

“If there was a situation where you would have to use it, would you be willing to use it to take down another person?” she said.