ATLANTA—Last week, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed a bill that will allow Georgia weapons permit holders over 21 years of age to carry concealed firearms in most parts of the state’s college and university campuses. The impacted schools include the Georgia Institute of Technology, where I teach, and the University of Georgia.
Here, as in other states where similar laws have arisen, opponents contend that guns on campus will only cause accidental violence. But supporters see the prohibition of firearms at colleges and universities as a greater risk. Given the knowledge that campuses are gun-free, the reasoning goes, would-be assailants might choose them as easy targets. Opponents respond that few attacks ever have been prevented by the “good guys with guns” that the laws supposedly arm for the task.
But apart from the question of whether guns really make campuses safer, there are other reasons to squint at college gun laws—even for those who support the concept of campus carry. Among them: The ambiguities in these laws makes implementation confusing, enforcement difficult, litigation likely, and the resulting costs to university systems, campuses, courts, and citizens burdensome.
As a result, there’s reason to believe that campus-carry laws impact safety less than operational complexity, overhead, and anxiety. They eat up workforce time and taxpayer money that might be used better to advance the educational mission of institutions of higher education. Georgia’s new law, HB 280, offers a particularly egregious example.