The bill essentially would amend Part 3 of Article 4 of Chapter 11 of Title 16 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated relating to carrying and possession of firearms in unauthorized locations, specifically government buildings. It would amend the code that the term “government building” shall not mean “the campus of any public or private technical school, vocational school, college, university, or institution of postsecondary education,” further removing postsecondary education facilities from the realm of a “school safety zone.”
Administrations at both Chattahoochee Technical College, a member of the Technical College System of Georgia, and Georgia Highlands College, a member of the University System of Georgia, said they support current Georgia law regarding guns on campus.
According to a statement provided by CTC, “Officials with Chattahoochee Technical College have concerns over the proposed legislation when it comes to the safety of our faculty, staff and students.
“Bringing guns into classrooms creates enormous problems for law enforcement, most especially the campus public safety officers who would be the first to respond to any incident. Allowing weapons on campus adds an additional level of uncertainty for our officers, as they must quickly ascertain who is the aggressor in a situation to proceed safely. This becomes cloudy when multiple people are armed.
“Colleges provide a unique environment that is dependent on open and vigorous debate. Introducing guns into classrooms would dramatically affect the ability to engage in the exchange of ideas.”
GHC Interim President Renva Watterson said in a prepared statement, “Georgia Highlands College supports the current Georgia law and believes that it best serves and protects our students, faculty and staff.”
While neither college reported the existence of gun advocacy or gun control student groups on their local campuses, GHC Student Government President Tatiana Smithson gave The Daily Tribune News a student’s perspective on the issue.
“I think it’s a tough situation for both sides,” Smithson said. “I can see the view of the students that I talked to that agreed on the bill passing and the ones that don’t. It’s hard to know what the whole student body feels because there has not been an official survey.
“Talking to the students as a fellow student, it was really 50-50, but one thing they did agree on was that there should be some kind of armed protection whether the bill passes or not. In my opinion as a student, I agree with the students I talked to that there should be some kind of protection for the students.
“To me it can be a little scary not knowing if the person is responsible enough to carry. We just have to keep in mind not to over do it because we have to think the kind of environment it will cause no matter what decision is made.”
Gregory’s HB 29 is the second time since the Newtown, Conn., shooting that Georgia representatives have proposed gun legislation relating to public schools. State Rep. Paul Battles, R-Cartersville, introduced pre-legislation this month that calls for local school boards to determine whether school administrators should be allowed to carry guns on school property and at school events.
No teachers or any faculty beyond administrators would be allowed to carry guns on their persons if the bill passes.
“The key to this piece of this legislation ... [is] I did not want to make this a mandate where systems had to [allow administrators to carry guns],” Battles said. “... It’s an option, and if school boards say they don’t want to do this, they don’t have to.”
Read the full bill at www.legis.ga.gov.