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GCSU Public Safety clears up misconceptions on new campus carry bill

GCSU Public Safety clears up misconceptions on new campus carry bill. (WGXA-TV)

MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. -- Since the new Georgia campus carry bill, or HB280, was signed into law in May, there has been widespread confusion about what exactly it means for gun owners.

On Wednesday, Georgia College and State University Director of Public Safety Don Challis held an information session on the new bill, which will go into effect at all public Georgia colleges and universities on July 1.

Challis took questions from students and faculty on where and when a concealed carry-permitted gun owner can bring guns on GCSU's campus.

He said there is a lot of heated rhetoric around the law and wanted to host the information session to let people know exactly what the law actually says so that gun owners know what they can and cannot do on campus.

"For our circumstances, it's important to understand, that we aren't going to have a lot a people that aren't even eligible [to carry guns]," he said. "If they are, they may not even want to do that."

Challis said that guns are not permitted on several locations on campus for those with concealed carry permits, including facilities where intercollegiate athletics take place, offices, residence halls, on-campus fraternity and sorority houses and any classroom where there is a student that is either a duel-enrolled, or "Move On When Ready," high school student present.

He said that the responsibility for the knowledge of whether or not there are dual-enrolled high school students present in a concealed carry gun owner's classroom falls on the gun owner. In order to gain that information, the gun owner must go to the registrars office and ask if any of those students will be present in a class they are planning on attending. If the answer is yes, Challis said that that gun owner may not bring the weapon into the classroom.

Additionally, Challis walked the group through the process that campus police will take if they get a call from a concerned citizen about a gun on campus. He said officers will ask several questions about the type of weapon that the caller saw, how it is displayed, what the gun carrier's behavior and disposition is.

He said that if the answers to the questions were that the weapon is a handgun, the carrier is sitting peacefully in class or somewhere else on campus where a gun is allowed with the gun on their hip and they do not seem agitated, it is likely that campus police may not physically respond to the call due to a lack of violation.

"We want people to know we aren't disregarding or overreacting to their concern." Challis said. "That's why we are going to ask in different ways about the behaviors that are causing the concern because just having the weapon may or may not be a violation."

However, some students, like Victoria Coleman, say that it concerns them to know that there might be a student on campus that is carrying a gun.

Coleman said that she worries that knowing someone sitting next to her in class may have a gun on their belt or in their backpack may cause her to lose concentration in class. She said she is concerned about the ability for individuals to bring guns on campus.

But Challis said that Wednesday's information session was aimed at turning down the temperature on the campus carry debate and to let people know that the law is and what they are going to do about it there can be a smooth transition to the next semester.

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