Georgia’s new gun law may allow licensed citizens to take their guns into bars, churches and some government buildings, but colleges reserve the right to ban firearms from their campuses.
If a gun owner is simply passing through campus, a firearm in the vehicle is allowed. Otherwise, guns are prohibited in school “safety zones,” according to spokespersons at East Georgia State College, Ogeechee Technical College and Georgia Southern University.
House Bill 60, signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal earlier this year, allows licensed owners to carry guns into churches, bars and other places, but it includes a provision that allows local school boards to decide whether to arm teachers and staff and to ban firearms from their campuses.
Georgia's Safe Carry Protection Act allows schools to fine those in violation of their bans if guns are visibly displayed in off-limits areas, but firearms are allowed in cars parked or traveling through a school safety zone.
East Georgia State doesn’t allow guns on campus other than what the law allows, said Elizabeth Gilmer, the college’s director of external affairs.
“East Georgia State College is following the Georgia Safe Carry Protection Act, effective July 1, 2014,” she said. “The law protects school safety zones with certain limited exceptions.”
East Georgia doesn’t have notices regarding guns being banned, but “diligent oversight of campus safety by campus police and other factors” will ensure enforcement, she said.
The college “… has not experienced incidents involving guns on campus” in the past, she added.
Ogeechee Tech has the same policy, said Barry Turner, the vice president for college advancement.
Besides the law’s exemptions, licensed gun owners can only carry firearms on campus if a school official grants them that privilege in writing, he said.
“To date, we have had no issues with regard to unauthorized weapons on campus,” Turner said. “Our policies are posted for students in college publications, such as the catalog/handbook, and on signs at the entrances to campus, stating that Ogeechee Technical College is a ‘school safety zone’ as defined by the state of Georgia.”
Georgia Southern follows the same policy, said Paige E. Fluker, the university’s assistant director of communications.
“There is a general prohibition against carrying weapons in a school safety zone. This includes Georgia Southern University,” she said. “But a person who has a license to carry a weapon may have a weapon with them when dropping off or picking up a student. They also may have a weapon in their vehicle as they pass through campus.”
A “school safety zone” includes the real property or buildings of public or private elementary schools, secondary schools, technical schools, vocational schools, colleges or universities, she said.
Georgia Southern, like Ogeechee Tech and East Georgia, has not experienced any issues with guns on campus, Fluker said.
New students are informed of the gun ban “during the ‘Talk with the Dean’ session” during orientation. Parents attending the orientation assemblies “are also informed of the weapons policy during the campus safety session conducted by our crime prevention officer Danny Garrigus and Assistant Dean Mark Whitesal,” she said.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.