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New GS president praises campus carry veto
But Hebert says university will follow the law if its restored
Hebert Mug Web
Georgia Southern University President Jaimie Hebert

New Georgia Southern University President Jaimie Hebert, PhD., who recently arrived from Texas where he publicly opposed legislation allowing guns to be carried on college campuses, says that Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal acted courageously in vetoing “campus carry” here.

When asked about this during an interview his first official day on the job, July 1, Hebert also said that the university will address the issue in the future if the legislation is revived, and in any case will abide by the law. When five semifinalists for the GS president’s job spoke on campus last spring, all were asked their position on legislation allowing handguns to be carried on college campuses.

In fact, Hebert’s pre-hire forum was on March 10, the day before the Georgia Senate’s final vote passing the campus carry bill, House Bill 859. Deal, although a Republican like the bill’s authors, called arguments that it would make campuses safer “highly questionable” and vetoed it May 3.

“I thought that was a very courageous decision on his part to veto that legislation, and of course, I did say in my open forum I was opposed to concealed carry,” Hebert said Friday. “I also said though, in that open forum, that it ultimately passed in Texas and if it does at some point, if there is legislation and we revisit that, we will address it at that time.”

 

Similar Texas law

Hebert came to Georgia Southern from Huntsville, Texas, where he was provost and vice president for academic affairs at Sam Houston State University. Similar to the 2015 Texas law, the 2016 Georgia legislation would have allowed adults age 21 and up who have permits to carry handguns to bring them, concealed, onto all public college and university campuses.

The Texas law allows college presidents to designate gun-free zones, but they cannot bar guns from an entire campus. Georgia House Bill 859 contained no provision for schools to designate their own gun-free areas, but it would have prohibited guns in venues where athletic competitions are held and in student housing, including fraternity and sorority houses.

Some Georgia Southern students and faculty members, among about 50 people, took part in a protest in Statesboro April 14 during a visit by Georgia House Speaker David Ralston in support of fellow Republican legislators up for re-election. The protestors called for Deal to veto House Bill 859, and he heard similar calls from around the state.

But organizations such as GeorgiaCarry.Org and the National Rifle Association had lobbied for the legislation, saying it would allow students and others to defend themselves.

In a statement after the governor’s May 3 veto, NRA spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen objected that Deal had struck down “a bill that would have made Georgia campuses safer for his constituents,” and said the NRA looks forward to working with the bill’s supporters to pass “this important safety legislation” next session. GeorgiaCarry.Org called for an override vote.

In the interview Friday, Hebert did not mention any of these specifics, but he alluded to the likelihood that Georgia has not seen the last of guns-on-campus legislation.

“I can assure you that the safety and wellbeing of our students, our faculty and our staff will be at the forefront, but we will always operate within the laws of the state of Georgia, if that comes,” Hebert said last week.

He was not alone among state university executives in Texas, where every president and every provost opposed the legislation, he said in March.

 

Shooting Sports Center

Georgia Southern allows guns at one special building on campus, subject to rules. Opened last September, the Shooting Sports Center on Old Register Road is operated by the university in partnership with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, which supplied $3.3 million toward the $5.8 million cost. The city of Statesboro also provided $500,000 from hotel-motel tax revenue.

The 30,000-square-foot facility includes indoor firearms and archery ranges, two classrooms and a DNR office. The ranges are open to the public, for fees, and instructional programs are offered. Any firearms must be brought into the center unloaded and in a closed case, and all bows must be unstrung or in a case, signs warn.

“As far as the sports shooting arena, I think that it’s a phenomenal asset to the university,” Hebert said Friday. “I had the opportunity to visit there. I know that it not only offers some training for students and some educational opportunities for students, but as I understand it’s assisting our local peace officers in their certification, in their training. So it’s a great win-win for the community to have a facility like that.”

 

Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.

 

 

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