New campus carry law discussed at AU forum

Augusta University Dean of Student Life Scott Wallace, (from left) Chief of Police James C. Lyon, and General Counsel Chris Melcher answer faculty and staff questions at a forum Monday about carrying concealed weapons on campus under a new Georgia law. TOM CORWIN/STAFF

Carrying a concealed weapon on the Augusta University campus is now generally permitted but a series of places where it is not left faculty and staff with a number of questions and concerns.

 

AU officials held a forum Monday afternoon for faculty and staff at its Summerville Campus and will have another on July 28 on the Health Sciences Campus, with more coming in August, said AU Chief of Police James C. Lyon. The university is operating under edicts promulgated by the University System of Georgia, which opposed the bill before it became law and went into effect July 1. It permits concealed weapon holders to carry a handgun in a concealed manner on campus but with a number of notable places where it is not permitted:

•Stadiums and arenas that host intercollegiate sports. In AU’s case, that primarily would be Christenberry Fieldhouse, Forest Hills Golf Course and Lake Olmstead Stadium. However, it is permitted in tailgating areas;

•Residence halls and other student housing on campus;

•Faculty, staff and administrative offices, and offices where there is a disciplinary hearing;

•Child care and preschool facilities;

•Classrooms where there are high school students enrolled.

It is that last exemption that created many of the questions. It is the responsibility of the permit holder seeking to carry a gun on campus to check with the Registrar to find out if any high school students are enrolled in the class, Lyon said. It is also the ongoing responsibility of the permit holder to find out if a high school student adds the class later, officials said.

Some of the exemptions created a kind of Catch-22 for faculty. For instance, faculty can carry a concealed weapon into a classroom that does not have a high school student but because offices are exempt, it is forbidden there.

“They cannot bring it into their own office,” said AU General Counsel Chris Melcher. “We are following the law.”

That made little sense to Todd Powell-Williams, an associate professor of sociology and criminal justice, who was raised with guns in West Virginia.

“What about my Second Amendment rights?” he said. “What about my right to protect myself? It seems as if the legislation was written to negate the concerns of faculty and staff.”

Based on the experiences with other state, it is more likely that it will be faculty and staff that are carrying, Lyon said. Building maintenance worker Alan Norman wanted to know if he was okay leaving his gun locked in the trunk.

“I don’t plan on carrying mine around campus,” he said. “I just want mine to and from work.”

He was assured that would be okay. Norman said he is more concerned about encountering trouble during his long commute.

“I just want to be able to go home to my family,” he said.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213

or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com

Augusta University will host another forum on House Bill 280/Campus Carry at 2 p.m. July 28 on its Health Sciences Campus in the Auditoria Center Room 1030.

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