On Oct. 8, a student accidentally shot himself in the leg in the student lounge of the Chemistry Building, according to a University of Georgia Police report. UGA Spokesman Greg Trevor said the student “unsafely handled the weapon out of the holster.”
The incident highlights a crucial issue with House Bill 280, often called the “campus carry” law. Many students in Georgia do not know how to properly carry a gun. Georgia can fix this by requiring Georgians interested in carrying guns with them on college campuses to take a class on how to do so safely and per the law.
Admittedly, adding restrictions to carrying guns may be controversial. Gun rights advocates often discuss the need to protect law-abiding citizens’ Second Amendment rights. I believe this is reasonable. However, this is exactly why we need to be stricter on teaching the law and safety. Most students and faculty likely wish to follow the rules but do not understand the law fully. A basic training course will help them be safer and better informed.
The current laws in Georgia are very lax. Any license holder 21 years or older can carry a concealed gun in most places on campus. Georgia does not require training on safe handling for guns to obtain a carry permit. This is especially an issue for campus carry because many young people may not have much experience with handling guns, resulting in dangerous practices.
Further, many students find the state’s campus carry policy confusing. Around a year after the policy was enacted, the 22 colleges in the Technical College System of Georgia had eight violations in which someone brought a firearm into an unauthorized location. The University System of Georgia, which includes UGA, had 15 cases of campus carry violations during the same time, according to data the university systems provided to the AJC. These statistics only include the number of students caught, so the true number of violations could be much higher. In one striking case, a Southern Crescent Technical College student had a handgun in plain view. When ordered by a campus police officer to put it away, she cited a YouTube video in an unsuccessful attempt to prove she was following the law. Anecdotally, UGA students do not know certain provisions in the state’s campus carry policy. For example, people often are surprised to learn they cannot have a gun in any class with a high school student.
Though campus carry still provokes heated debate, it would be much more effective if students were better informed on how to safely carry a gun on campus. Georgia must better educate gun-handling students on the law and safety techniques to minimize future danger.