Low turnout for ‘campus carry’ forum at Augusta University

Augusta University Chief of Police James C. Lyon, left, and AU Dean of Student Life Scott Wallace photographed at the AU medical campus in Augusta Tuesday afternoon August 29, 2017. MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF

The new Georgia law that allows people to carry concealed weapons on college campuses is not generating much controversy, or much interest Tuesday, at Augusta University.

 

The school hosted a forum on the “campus carry” law and its exemptions but only one person, director of student health Bob Dollinger, showed up. The organizers plan to advertise more for another forum on the law this week at 10 a.m. Thursday in the Jaguar Student Activity Center on the Summerville Campus.

AU Chief of Police James C. Lyon said he has not received a single call from someone concerned or alarmed by someone carrying a concealed weapon and to him that means people are following the rules and the law is not generating as much controversy or disruption as some had feared.

“I think they’re behaving themselves,” he said. Only those with a concealed carry permit are allowed to carry on campus and only handguns are permitted, according to the University System of Georgia policy.

Lyon has also had between 15-20 meetings with individual departments to talk about their concerns and answer their specific questions. A lot of the questions stem from the exemptions to the law, those areas where concealed carry is not permitted. Those include:

• Any classroom where a high school student is enrolled, and it is the responsibility of the permit holder to go to the Registrar and find out if any classes have those students;

• Stadiums, arenas or other athletic venues that host intercollegiate athletic events, which for AU would be Christenberry Fieldhouse, Forest Hills Golf Course and Lake Olmstead Stadium primarily;

• Residence halls and student housing on campus;

• Faculty, staff and administrative offices and venues for disciplinary hearings;

• Child care and preschool facilities.

It is those exceptions that have generated the most questions about what areas would qualify as exempt, Lyon said. For instance, concealed carry is permitted in a classroom without high school students but the instructor cannot then take the handgun back to his or her office, Lyon said. Locking it securely in a car is acceptable, he said. But that kind of defeats the purpose of having it on campus, Bollinger said.

“If there is an active shooter on campus, your gun isn’t going to do you much good in a car,” he said. Also, concealed carry is permitted in clinics and exam rooms but the faculty provider could not then go back to an office with the weapon, Lyon said.

The policy AU follows is the one set by the university system for all of its campuses. Administrators have also looked to different states, such as Texas and Colorado, to see how they handled similar laws that were implemented on their campuses earlier, said Dean of Student Life Scott Wallace.

“Other states have done this,” he said. “We’re not trailblazers, in the state of Georgia, for this topic.”

In order to get a concealed carry permit in Georgia, a person must be at least 21 years old and that would exclude most of the traditional students, Lyon said. But while that permit holder must submit fingerprints and pass a background check, there is no requirement for proficiency or safety training, something that he would like to provide voluntarily for those on campus, Lyon said.

“We are going to develop a training (program) for our students, staff and faculty to help them get familiar with a weapon” if they so choose, he said.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com.

 

Here is guidance from University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley on the system’s campus carry regulations, that applies to Augusta University and all of the other schools in the system: www.usg.edu/news/release/guidelines_for_the_implementation_of_house_bill_280

IF YOU GO: The next forum at Augusta University on the campus carry law and its exemptions will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday in the Jaguar Student Activity Center Ballroom, Room 195, on the Summerville Campus.

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