Georgia's public colleges and technical schools will soon have to let students with permits carry concealed guns some places on campus. The new law bans guns in certain areas, including spaces where high school students take classes. However, that part of the bill could cause confusion.
The legislation says guns will not be allowed in "any room or space being used for classes in which high school students are enrolled."
"It is clearly going to be an implementation challenge,” said Andrew Morse, a consultant and project director with higher education consulting firm Keeling & Associates. "There's no set classroom in a particular campus building that is only for high school students taking classes in a college setting."
Simon Bloom, an attorney with Atlanta law firm Bloom Sugarman, said the law gives schools some leeway.
"It's very easy for a college administration to say, 'Well, we've got high school students that are enrolled that use all of the spaces on this college campus,’” Bloom said. “They use the library. No guns. They use the cafeteria. No guns. They use the walkways between Room 1 and Room 2. No guns. So you can see how this law is so much more symbolic than it is practical."
Bloom said the law is less about arming students and more about debating Second Amendment rights in a different arena: College campuses. He said it won't affect many students because they have to be 21 years old to apply for a carry permit.
"The likelihood of that small subset of ‘super seniors’ that want to carry a gun to school sitting next to a 15-year-old or 16-year-old or 17-year-old—sophomore, junior, senior in high school—is so remote,” Bloom said.
He doesn’t expect to see a surge of gun-toting students at Georgia colleges this year.
Still, Morse said that caveat doesn’t deliver on the stated intent of campus carry laws: Increased safety.
"The permits that are issued to conceal carry owners across the states have very little requirement on the safety of using your firearm,” Morse said, “Let alone the ability to respond to a crisis."
The university and technical college systems will need to come up with implementation plans soon, because the law takes effect July 1.