HB-280, Campus Carry, has taken Georgia by storm since its signing, but the law is far more sensible than the left believes.
HB-280, more infamously known as “campus carry,” has drawn fierce criticism and incited a lawsuit from six professors in the the University System of Georgia, three of whom teach at UGA . Some conservatives, and nearly all liberals have condemned the law, signed by Governor Nathan Deal in May and put into effect on June 1, 2017, nearly six months ago.
The lawsuit claims that the Governor acted in violation the Georgia State Constitution by enacting a law that expanded gun carrying rights. Opponents of the bill argue that these new carry rights act in direct violation of Georgia state law, specifically three provisions known as “Guns on Campus Laws.” Following the signing of the bill, thousands of phone calls poured in from concerned students and faculty of the University System of Georgia, who believed that the loosening of carrying laws would lead to mass carnage and chaos. While no carnage has happened in the past six months, hysteria has been in abundance. Campus carry has remained a hotly debated topic, eliciting considerable time in debates between UGA’s College Republicans and Young Democrats, in special election campaigning in the 119th and 117th districts, as well as in the unfolding gubernatorial race. Unsurprisingly, there is a stark split across party lines with nearly every Republican being in favor of campus carry and every Democrat being opposed. In the 117th special election, Democratic candidate Deborah Gonzalez has chastised campus carry and vowed to work to repeal it while Republican candidate Houston Gaines took a more nuanced approach, saying he would be in favor of looking at the bill again when the Georgia House begins its next session. By then, a semester would have passed with campus carry in effect and would allow for a greater discussion and review of the bill. Furthermore, in the 119th district, Democratic candidate Jonathan Wallace took a nearly identical approach as Deborah Gonzalez while Republican candidates Marcus Wiedower and Tom Lord voiced their support of campus carry. The third Republican candidate, Steven Strickland, also took a more cautioned view, similar to Houston Gaines. The governor’s race has split roughly the same way, with Republican candidates supporting HB-280 and Democratic candidates remaining in staunch opposition.
In these arguments, there remains a veil of ignorance. Fear is being utilized by the Democrats, who selectively ignore the restrictions of the law and paint campus carry as an anarchical precursor to massacres, promoting this law as a measure that exemplifies the lack of compassion of Republicans. The truth of the matter, as outlined by the law itself, is that HB-280 is still severely restrictive, perhaps rightfully so. Firstly, HB-280 only applies to those with a valid carrying license. It is only available to those who are 21 years of age or older, which means that only certain graduate students or undergraduate upperclassmen (barring exceptions) are able to carry on campus. This is explicitly stated in the outline of the law, which reads:
Annotated, relating to carrying and possession of firearms, so as to authorize the carrying and possession of handguns in certain manners by weapons carry license holders in certain buildings or on real property owned by or leased to public institutions of postsecondary education…
This immediately excludes nearly two-thirds of the student population at UGA, as a majority of the undergraduate class is below the age of 21 and, even those who are 21, may not be licensed to carry. Furthermore, HB-280 prohibits carrying in dorms, fraternity and sorority houses, places where high school students are taking classes via dual enrollment, places being used for specialized schooling, and places designated as preschools or daycares. This means that campus carry does not apply to the majority of the Georgia classrooms. It also prohibits individuals from carrying within dorms and during any athletic event, such as UGA’s massive football gamedays.
Finally, as stated before, the law has been in place for nearly six months and not a single mass shooting has happened on any campus in Georgia. For the most part, mass shootings don’t occur where others are carrying. They happen at night clubs, concerts, workplaces where guns are prohibited and cities where gun laws are severely restrictive. For many students who are in a new place alone and far from home, simply being able to carry at night as they walk home would provide security. The people who are licensed to carry are not trigger happy maniacs, they are those who have grown up around guns and are aware of the implications of carrying and the extra scrutiny that comes with it. This law does not apply to everyone, and does not open up carrying everywhere, but it does provide an extra layer of security for those who do have a license to carry. That is why I stand in support of HB-280.
Devon Spiva is a freshman studying political science. He is a regular contributor to The Arch Conservative.