ATLANTA -- Georgia public colleges woke up Friday with new graduates celebrating – combined with a case of nerves over a new law signed Thursday by Governor Nathan Deal. The law allows holders of state permits to carry concealed pistols on campus
When he signed Campus Carry, Gov. Deal wrote "the path to higher education often travels through dangerous territory." The question at GSU a day later was whether the governor has made some of that territory even more dangerous.
"I had to turn in grades at five o'clock yesterday," said political science instructor Doug Teper. "Among those grades were certain people who failed the class. And I am not wanting to see those people again if they’re allowed to bring weapons in." Teper is a former Democratic state representative who says he respects the use of firearms for personal protection.
With its urban setting downtown, and some high-profile robberies last year, Georgia State was often the campus cited by lawmakers arguing in favor of Campus Carry. Backers of the measure said that college campuses were easy prey for criminals who knew guns were illegal there.
"I think there’s quite a high risk the law will make campus less safe," countered World Communications instructor Maria Repnikova. She said educational dialog can get heated – potentially more so with guns in the mix.
"It just makes the relationship (among faculty and students) different. Its not a space where you can just express yourself freely when someone else might have a weapons," Repnikova said.
The bill allows guns on public college campuses, with exceptions for day care centers; athletic facilities; student housing; administrative offices; disciplinary hearing facilities; and areas which accommodate high school students. Some of the exceptions were added to the bill to accommodate concerns raised by Gov. Deal.
"I’m deeply disappointed with the state government," said Hector Fernandez L’Hoeste, a professor of world languages. He faulted the state for disregarding widespread opinion on campuses that weighed in against the Campus Carry bill. "To normalize the presence of weapons in a place where intellectual exchange is key, that can’t be a good thing."
Repnikova, who moved to GSU from a job at the University of Pennsylvania, said Campus Carry will make Georgia less appealing for new college instructors. "If you want to attract the talent, it’s going to be problematic," she said.
But graduate student Steven Garcia is a gun owner who says Campus Carry makes sense to him. "I would personally feel safer," he said. Garcia added he has no conceal-carry permit and no intention of acquiring one.
"Personally I feel I’m not capable of that responsibility. I know if I had to defend myself with a firearm I probably would just freeze up," he laughed.
Campus Carry goes into effect July 1. Officials say the Board of Regents is coming up with an enforceability plan between now and then.