Georgia House Bill 280, commonly known as the “campus carry” legislation, will take effect on July 1st. I understand that many of you have strong feelings about this bill. Yet, whether you opposed or supported the legislation, it will soon be state law, and I respectfully ask everyone to exercise patience, understanding, and respect as we implement it along with every other institution of higher education in the University System of Georgia.
We all share the same goal of ensuring a safe campus environment. We should work together to implement the law as written, and thoughtfully address any complications that may arise.
What does House Bill 280 mean for VSU?
Beginning July 1, House Bill 280 will allow anyone with a valid Georgia Weapons Carry License to carry a handgun in a concealed manner on property owned or leased by public colleges and universities, with some exceptions. It will not allow any other type of gun to be carried around campus, nor will it allow handguns to be carried openly.
Georgia law defines “concealed” as “carried in such a fashion that does not actively solicit the attention of others and is not prominently, openly, and intentionally displayed except for purposes of defense of self or others.” A Georgia Weapons Carry License holder, therefore, may carry a handgun while it is substantially “but not necessarily completely” covered by an article of clothing he or she is wearing, or contained within a bag “of a nondescript nature” he or she is carrying, or in another similar manner that generally keeps it out of the view of others.
Are there exceptions to House Bill 280?
House Bill 280 does have some exceptions that limit the locations on campus where a weapon may be carried.
No one — not even a Georgia Weapons Carry License holder — may carry a weapon into:
Buildings and property used for athletic sporting events.
This includes stadiums, gymnasiums, and similar facilities in which intercollegiate games are staged. This DOES NOT include so-called “tailgating” areas where fans may congregate outside the gates of the sports facility or student recreation centers and similar facilities that are not used for intercollegiate games.
Student housing facilities.
This includes residence halls and similar buildings where students live on property owned or leased by the University System of Georgia. House Bill 280 does not apply to student housing that is not on property owned or leased by the University System of Georgia.
Classes in which high school students are enrolled.
Rooms and other spaces during the times when they are being used for classes in which high school students are enrolled, whether through programs such as Dual Enrollment, or through college and career academies or other specialized programs such as Early College.
Georgia Weapons Carry License holders who want to carry handguns to class will need to visit the Office of the Registrar with their VSU 1Card.
After verifying their enrollment status, the Registrar official will tell them which of their classes, if any, have high school students enrolled.
Institutions may not, however, keep any listing of those who inquire. It is the responsibility of license-holders to seek out this information and make themselves aware of which classrooms fall within this exception.
Students should be aware that until the Drop/Add period at the beginning of the term is complete, the class makeup may change.
This exception only applies to classrooms, not common areas like the library, dining hall, student union, and other public campus locations.
Faculty, staff and administrative offices and office suites.
This does not include areas outside of these offices, including common areas, classrooms, labs, and other public campus locations.
Any rooms during the times when they are being used for disciplinary proceedings of any kind, including those regarding students, faculty, or staff. These would include any meetings or hearings that are part of the University System of Georgia’s or VSU’s sexual misconduct, student conduct, dispute resolution, grievance, appeals, or other processes.
Please note that House Bill 280 DOES NOT apply to excursions or institution-sponsored events away from campus on property not owned or leased by a University System of Georgia institution.
How will be the law be enforced at VSU?
It is up to the Georgia Weapons Carry License holder who chooses to carry a handgun on campus to know the law and to understand where they can go while carrying. VSU will not provide gun storage facilities or erect signs outside restricted areas.
Violation of House Bill 280 is a misdemeanor crime, and any suspected violations should be reported directly to the VSU Police Department. Violators will also face consequences as outlined in the Student Code of Conduct and/or employee policies.
It is incumbent upon each of us to follow the law. Students, faculty, and staff should not attempt to monitor or enforce compliance with the statute by those who choose to legally carry handguns. Many of you have strong feelings regarding this Bill, and I ask that if you see someone carrying in a way that is any other way than concealed or in a perceived unauthorized area, please contact the VSU Police Department. Only law enforcement personnel, including VSU Police officers, will be responsible for enforcing the law.
How can I determine whether high school students are enrolled in a particular class?
The Office of the Registrar will provide information to faculty and students through their website that will allow carry permit holders to check whether high school students are enrolled in a particular class. Of course, the burden is on the permit holder to check the website often, particularly during drop/add season, to assure that they have the most up to date information on class composition
Opportunities for Questions
We will all have to work together to implement the many elements required by the new law. I know I can count on you to act responsibly and appropriately, remembering that student success is our primary goal. Our focus must remain on ensuring our students leave VSU with the sophisticated critical thinking, problem solving, and interpersonal skills needed to be successful in their personal and professional lives. As our Blazer Creed promises, we are a learning community built on trust and mutual respect. That is true today, and it will still be true after July 1st. Open forums are being planned for July and August as an opportunity for our campus community to speak directly with the Chief of Police regarding the new law. If you have additional questions, please contact the Valdosta State University Office of Communications, who are working with the University System Office for inclusion in the FAQ.
We look forward to working together to provide an environment where our students can succeed and I thank you for all you do to support us in those efforts.
Dr. Richard Carvajal
President, Valdosta State University