Will guns be allowed on campuses?
by Sarah Fay Campbell
Georgia’s House Bill 60, dubbed the “Guns Everywhere Bill” by opponents, was the most well-known gun-related legislation passed during the 2014 Georgia legislative session, but it wasn’t the only one.
The other, HB 826, primarily dealt with giving schools some flexibility when it comes to disciplining students who bring weapons, including knives, or “hazardous objects" onto school property.
But the bill also removed limits that kept those with weapons carry licenses from carrying weapons in school safety zones. Previously, carry was only allowed when dropping off or picking up a student or in a vehicle.
HB 60 didn’t make changes to school safety zones. Provisions that would have allowed legal gun carry on college campuses were removed from the bill before it was approved.
And now, there are two conflicting bills, and conflicting opinions on whether or not campus and school carry will become legal on July 1, when the bills take effect.
Attorney General Sam Olens and Gov. Nathan Deal say that, since HB 60 was signed after HB 826, the school carry provisions of HB 826 are overruled by the language in HB 60.
But some gun carry advocates disagree.
“We’re telling people that we think it is legal if you have a license, to carry at schools starting July 1,” said John Monroe, vice president and legal counsel for GeorgiaCarry. “People can make their own decisions.”
Monroe disagrees that the two laws are in conflict with each other. “You don’t get into the question of what bill was signed first and which one takes precedence unless there is an irreconcilable difference between the two.”
When bills are crafted, portions of existing law are crossed out and new wording, which is underlined, is added. If language in a bill isn’t underlined, in most cases, it is existing law.
If you take all the word changes in the two bills “and put them together, you end with a cogent paragraph that means something,” Monroe said. “Our position is, they are not irreconcilably conflicted, so you don’t end up with the issue of which one was signed first.”
Olens released a list of “frequently asked questions" and answers regarding the gun law changes on Thursday, but they were not an actual opinion provided by the Attorney General’s office, Monroe said.
“I think that the FAQ doesn’t mean anything,” Monroe said. “Real opinions are binding on the state and its agencies.” However, “they’re not binding on the courts."
Monroe thinks it is “almost a certainty there are people out there who will push the envelope, and come July 1, they’re going to start carrying guns at schools.”
The conflict will be litigated, sooner or later. If someone is arrested for carrying at a school or college, the issue will be litigated through the criminal defense process.
Or, a college student or faculty member, or possibly a parent of a school child, could talk to school officials and say they are planning to carry a gun. If they’re told that is not allowed, “that person probably has standing to file a civil suit,” Monroe said.
“I guess I wouldn’t be surprised if both happen.”
Under the new laws, private colleges and schools can make their own decisions, much like other property owners can. And the Board of Regents of the University of System of Georgia no longer has the ability to restrict carry on its properties. Counties and cities haven’t been able to regulate the carrying of guns, only the state could. HB 60 expanded that prohibition to all state agencies, leaving the Georgia General Assembly the only government agency with the ability to regulate where and how guns can be carried, according to Monroe.
“There are a lot of moving parts to this … it will be interesting,” said Monroe. “I won’t be surprised to wake up on July 1 and find out somebody has already been arrested."