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Concealed carry laws proliferate on campus

Georgia and Tennessee may be latest to ease campus gun restrictions
University Business, May 2016

A bill that would allow concealed handguns at Georgia public colleges and universities was awaiting action from Gov. Nathan Deal as this issue of UB was being readied for press. The measure would permit licensed gun owners over age 21 to carry concealed handguns on campus, except in student housing and at athletic events.

Deal, a pro-carry supporter, had asked for additional restrictions to the law, such as excluding guns at campus day care centers and at disciplinary hearings. To date, lawmakers have opposed the changes. The governor had until May 3 to veto the measure, or it would become law.

Georgia is just the latest state to ease campus gun restrictions. In Tennessee, legislators were preparing to vote on a law that would allow full-time employees with a handgun permit who work at public institutions to carry a firearm only on the property of their respective institutions. Students, however, would not be allowed to carry firearms.

The Tennessee law is not without its critics. University of Memphis President David Rudd expressed his views in an email to campus constituents. “We oppose this legislation and do not believe the presence of more weapons will make our campuses safer,” Rudd said. “More weapons on campus may result in more frequent emergency alerts and possible lockdowns, which will disrupt our academic mission and will adversely impact student success.”

In Texas, a campus carry law was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott last year and is set to take effect August 1 at public universities, and in 2017 at community colleges. Private universities can opt out of the law. The Texas law cites specific areas where guns are not allowed, such as athletic facilities, but contains a stipulation that concealed carry may not be prohibited outright.

Pending the Georgia and Tennessee decisions, eight states (Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin) currently allow concealed carry on college campuses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Twenty-three states leave the decision to each individual college or university, while 16 states and the District of Columbia prohibit concealed handguns on campus.

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