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Campus Carry in Georgia: Challenges & Recommendations

Info: 9805 words (39 pages) Dissertation
Published: 25th Nov 2021

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Tagged: Law

In this paper, we will offer an overview of campus carry laws including background, risk analysis, and compliance. Additionally we will analyze how campus carry affects higher education in Georgia and offer recommendations to Georgia administrators.


The Current Issue

Firearm violence has significantly increased over time. According to Teeple, Thompson, and Price, “the number of premeditated incidents of violence involving victims affiliated with an institution of higher learning rose from 1 in the 1900s to 79 in the 1990s to 83 in the 2000s” (2012, p. 57). To help combat this issue and protect more students, faculty, and staff, many states proposed legislation to allow concealed carry of firearms on college and university campuses. As of August 2017, 12 states have legislation that permit concealed carry of guns on college and university campuses. An additional 22 states have legislation that leave the decision of campus carry up to the colleges and universities. A list of these states is included in Table 1 below (Winn, 2017). The remaining 16 states ban carrying concealed weapons on college campuses.

States That Allow Campus Carry

States That Leave the Decision to the Institutions




















New Hampshire






Rhode Island

South Dakota






West Virginia



Table 1: States with Legislation Allowing Some Form of Campus Carry (Winn, 2017)

Clearly, states are at odds on this issue. But, even in states that allow some form of campus carry—be it allowing guns on every public campus or allowing each institution to make their own decision in the matter—students, faculty, and staff are divided. Some people believe that allowing concealed carry on college and university campuses will make them feel safer and may even help prevent situations like the Virginia Tech massacre. Groups such as Students for Concealed Carry crafted a list of reasons that campus carry should be allowed. They pose arguments that include: legally-armed citizens have training, gun-free zones generally do not work, allowing campus carry will not increase risks to others, protection is deserved, and colleges cannot always protect students (Teeple, Thompson, & Price, 2012). On the other hand, some people believe that having guns on campus would harm the academic environment and would not make them feel safer on campus. Those who oppose campus carry, such as the group Students for Gun Free Zones, argue that shooters will not be deterred by those with concealed weapons, concealed carry permit holders are not always law-abiding, and people are not required to undergo law enforcement training before obtaining a permit (Teeple, Thompson, & Price, 2012). Vastly different perceptions surround this controversial topic, so it can be next to impossible for lawmakers and campus administrators to determine the best course of action. To further understand the situation at hand, lawmakers and administrators need to analyze historical perspectives, student and faculty perceptions, and how various states and institutions have handled concealed carry on campuses.

A Historical Perspective

Guns and other weapons on American college and university campuses have not always been an issue. In fact, in the colonial era and revolutionary times, young people were required to be armed for militia duty at all times, including students at college (Cramer, 2014). In particular, in 1784, Georgia required that any free man 16 years or older to be armed with a rifle musket, a shotgun, and cartridges for the weapons (Cramer, 2014). Therefore, in these eras of American history, guns on campus were quite common and not at all opposed. However, as time pushed forward and students were no longer mandated by militia law to carry weapons, campus bans of firearms grew more popular. By the 1830s, several college campuses across the country prohibited deadly weapons of any sort. There seemed to be only one exception to this rule—in 1908, students at Connecticut Agricultural College could have a service rifle for ROTC purposes (Cramer, 2014). This rule likely extended to other campuses with ROTC programs. Again, as time progressed, policies on weapons increased and became more stringent. By the 1960s, an era in which there was much turmoil for students, 97% of higher education institutions had policies that prohibited guns and other weapons (Cramer, 2014). While many of these institutions likely had policies prohibiting deadly weapons before then, institutions that did not added similar policies to their arsenal.

From the 1960s to the early 2000s, most states and institutions agreed that deadly weapons should be banned on campus. This mindset shifted beginning in 1966 when a shooting happened at the University of Texas, where a gunman killed 16 people (Sanderson et. al., 2018). People began to wonder if allowing concealed carry on campus may have helped stop this incident from occurring. This mindset shift continued after the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 and the Virginia Tech Massacre in 2007. Because of the Columbine massacre, in 2003, Colorado became the first state to allow concealed carry except in public official buildings and k-12 schools (Sanderson et. al., 2018). By 2013 and 2014, 33 states proposed legislation for concealed carry on campus (Sanderson et. al., 2018). While several of these laws did not pass, it did result in many states allowing campus carry. As previously stated, by 2017, 12 states now allow concealed carry of weapons on campus and an additional 22 states let individual institutions decide about campus carry (Winn, 2017).

Student and Faculty Perceptions & How States Are Handling It

Guns on campus is a hot topic in legislation and colleges and universities. Some argue that allowing campus carry would harm the academic environment and increase risks, while others argue that allowing concealed carry would offer greater protection for students, faculty, and staff.  Studies have shown that 94% of the public opposes concealed carry on college campuses (Thompson, et. al., 2013). However, people’s opinions on the matter vastly differ depending on their gender, race, experiences, location, and much more.

Geographical location can have a significant impact on their feelings towards campus carry. For example, students in Washington (a state that lets each institution decide about campus carry) are three times more likely to report complete discomfort with concealed guns on campus than those in Texas (a state in which concealed carry is allowed at all institutions) (Cavanaugh, et. al., 2012). Similarly, those who opposed gun control were most likely male, white, from rural areas, and politically conservative (Thompson, et. al., 2013). This demonstrates that those from more politically conservative areas such as Texas and other southern states are more likely to approve of campus carry than people from politically liberal locations such as Washington.

Because geography can have such a strong impact on opinions of campus carry, there is a vast difference between how states handle the issue of campus carry. Sixteen states completely prohibit firearms on campus. However, the other 34 states allow concealed carry of weapons on college and university campuses in some form. States such as Colorado and Utah, not only are pro-campus carry, they also have no restrictions and allow concealed weapons in every location on a college campus. Even states who are pro-campus carry may ban firearms in certain locations. For example, Kansas bans guns in buildings that have adequate security (Winn, 2017). Similarly, Wisconsin institutions can prohibit firearms in certain locations or at special events by posting signs (Teeple, Thompson, & Price, 2012).  For some states, allowing guns on campus is not just a safety issue; for states in which hunting is common, firearms for the sport may be allowed on campus. For example, in 2014, the University of Alaska still allowed firearms on campus for students who hunt, though all weapons must be secured (Cramer, 2014).

In addition to location, other factors can contribute to someone’s opinion toward concealed carry on campus. For example, Shepperd, et. al. (2018) divide students, staff, and faculty into three groups: Protection Owners (those who own a gun for the purpose of self-defense), Non-Protection Owners (those who own a gun for non-protection reasons such as sport or collection), and Non-Owners (those who do not own a gun). He states that by dividing into these three groups, we can discuss the psychological need for safety; everyone has a deep desire and need for safety, but the way people view safety can vary, especially when in relation to guns. For example, 89.1% of Non-Owners and 81.4% of Non-Protection Owners stated that if guns were allowed on campus, they would feel unsafe having heated arguments, while only 35.8% of Protection Owners stated a similar feeling (Shepperd et. al., 2018). This may demonstrate that states in which concealed carry permits are more common or states that have more Protection Owners may choose to handle the campus carry issue differently than states with fewer Protection Owners.



Weapons on college campuses across the United States have become a prominent topic among higher education administrators and students alike.  Georgia is one of the most recent states to allow students the right to carry guns on college and university campuses.  The law allows 21-year olds license-holders to carry concealed handguns on campus.  However, there are certain locations where license-holders cannot carry a handgun on college or university-owned or leased properties.  Since the inception of the law in July 2017, there has been both advocates for the law and reasonable opposition to the law.  The consequences of this legislative policy related to concealed firearms effects those inside higher education institutions and those who visit.  These consequences reveal there may be several challenges and issues associated with this law.

Campus Carry Law

House Bill 280, commonly known as the “campus carry” legislation, officially when into effect on July 1, 2017 and became Georgia law.  Prior to this law, license holders were allowed to keep weapons secured only in their motor vehicles.  Now, the State of Georgia allows anyone who is properly licensed in the state to carry a handgun in a concealed manner on property owned or leased by public colleges and universities, with limited exceptions (University System of Georgia. (n.d.).  This change in law has presented many issues and topics of conversation for students, faculty and employees both with and without a license to carry.  Although this law has many advantages for license holders and potential safety on campus, the disadvantages are just as important.  It is important to explore the challenges and opportunities that allowing weapons on campuses in Georgia presents.  Does allowing guns on campus come without remorse?


The amount of exceptions related to this new law limits the places on Georgia campuses where handguns may and may not be carried.  The details of the limitations such as how to conceal the weapon and understanding designated areas of approval present challenges for license holders.  In 2018, a student at Southern Crescent Technical College walked into a classroom with a handgun in plain sight.  This alarmed the professor to call campus police even with the new law in effect.  The student complained of her rights and offered a YouTube video detailing how she was correct in carrying the weapon.  After further review and argumentation, the student left the classroom to conceal the weapon in her vehicle car, as advised by campus police.  This incident proves there are gaps in the law that need to be revised and clearly stated so that these types of incidents can be reduced and prevented in the future. Out of the 22 colleges in the Technical College System of Georgia, there have been eight reported incidents in which someone carried a firearm in an unauthorized location, since the campus carry law has gone into effect (Prabhu & Stirgus, 2018).

As addressed in House Bill 280 (2017), the statute defines concealed as “carried in such a fashion that does not actively solicit the attention of others and is not prominently, openly, and intentionally displayed except for purposes of defense of self or others.”  License holders can be careless, misinformed or simply uninterested in abiding by the rules.  In these types of cases, college campuses are subject to suffer from the misuse of weapons and witness tragic situations erupt as seen in multiple news broadcast nationwide.  According to Touchberry (2017), since 1966, eight of the country’s deadliest mass shootings on college campuses have claimed the lives of 84 people.  Advocates for the campus carry law argue that the law will reduce the number of mass shootings among college campuses.  Those that oppose the law argue that more research needs to be done to prove those thoughts are factual.  With every new campus gun related incident, more short-comings of the law are explored.


One of the gaps the campus carry law presents is the type of punishment or lack thereof.  As addressed in House Bill 280 (2017), any weapons carry license holder who carries a handgun in a manner or in a building, property, room, or space in violation of this paragraph shall be guilty of a misdemeanor; provided, however, that for a conviction of a first offense, such weapons carry license holder shall be punished by a fine of $25.00 and not be sentenced to serve any term of confinement.  The tensions surrounding the campus carry law suggest an unrelenting punishment.  With the amount of surety license holders place on the advantages of campus carry, providing greater level of punishment may deter people from breaking the law.  A simple fine may not be enough to stop a predator or angry student that aims to provide harm.

A secondary gap with this law is the actual concealment and the appropriate areas of locations for weapons on campus.  There are specific guidelines around how a gun should be concealed and specifically the places on campus were they are not allowed.  For example, as addressed in House Bill 280 (2017), guns are not allowed in buildings or property used for athletic sporting events or student housing, including, but not limited to, fraternity and sorority houses, faculty, staff, or administrative offices or rooms where disciplinary proceedings are conducted.  The issue here is that student’s meet with faculty members during their projected office hours all the time.  As a departmental administrative assistant, I have witnessed that often times students will meet with a professor because they are upset about something or need help with class course material.  If a student with a license to carry fails an exam or has had an array of bad days and decides to meet with a professor during those times things could go left at any moment.  In situations like these, if the weapon is concealed on the student or faculty member, there can be no indication that a law is being broken until a shot has been fired.  In this case, it is too late and danger has already been set into action.  The same is true for a sporting event on campus where weapons are concealed in the car.  If altercations were to break-out in a campus parking lot, what’s stopping the license holder from grabbing their weapon?

Thirdly there is the issue of this law being unconstitutional.  Currently there are six professors in the University System of Georgia awaiting their appeal to the law.  These professors are suing former Gov. Nathan Deal, Gov. Brian Kemp and Attorney General Chris Carr.  Their claim is that the campus carry law violates the separation of powers provision established in the state’s constitution.  The professors are claiming that the law has changed their work environment and are complaining about being forced to work in the changed environment.  Their case was dismissed last year by a Fulton County Superior Court stating the law prohibits state government from being sued.  An Appeals Court Judge argues there is not enough evidence to prove the state officials acted out of their own will and desires or the duties assigned to their office (Prabhu, 2019).  This case proves all the challenges with the law have not been addressed and there is something to fight for.


The campus carry law leads Georgians to think more about gun laws and the overall safety among college campuses.  It also permits continual investigation, research and evidence to prove the necessity of the law.  In conclusion, when thinking of the question, Can we do what we want?  More research on the beneficence and maleficence of Georgia’s Campus Carry must be done.  Since the law is in effect, Administrators, University employees and students are faced to deal with the consequences of all the legal proceedings that may come.  It is up to these individuals who study and work in the institutions daily to voice their opinions and be heard by state officials in hopes of filling in the gaps of this law.  By simply reviewing the extant literature, it appears as if support for allowing the concealed carrying of weapons on campuses lacks sufficient legal standing and necessary empirical evidence (Acheson & Arrigo, 2016).

To accurately assess if there are compliance issues with the new “campus carry” law there must be clarity about what the “campus carry” law entails, as well as clear and concise expectations of what it means to be in compliance with the law. With clarity one could infer compliance with the law would improve and minimize confusion and avoidable incidents. Like this one, a student was in a classroom, with a handgun on her in plain sight. An instructor called campus police. Southern Crescent Technical College police found the student and told her the firearm had to be concealed, according to a campus police report. The student disagreed, and showed the officer a YouTube video to insist she was correct. The officer said she told the student she could not openly carry the firearm. The law says it has to be concealed. The officer advised her to put the weapon in her vehicle, and then she could go to class. (Georgia’s year-old campus carry law still stirs confusion, debate, 2018). In that situation the student was not in compliance with the campus carry law and it was difficult to persuade her to conceal her weapon. This is an example of an avoidable incident of misunderstandings that could have escalated. As a result of the misunderstanding the student became angry, thankfully nothing terrible happened. This proves there should be more information and training on the campus carry law. Confusion about the campus carry law can stem from different states having different campus carry laws. Georgia’s campus carry law requires weapons be concealed but some other states do not require that weapons are concealed and there are also states that do not permit weapons at all.

Effective July 1, 2017, license holders may carry in buildings or real property owned by any public college, university, technical school, etc. Concealed carry only; open carry is forbidden. Places off limits include buildings/property being used for athletic sporting events, student housing (including fraternity/sorority housing), preschool/childcare centers, rooms being used for college and career academy classes, high school dual enrollment classes, faculty/staff/administrative offices, rooms where disciplinary proceedings are being conducted. May keep a gun in a locked car in parking lot. These are the standards for public colleges and universities in the state of Georgia. (NRA-ILA, 2017). When considering the topic of weapons on campus and compliance we tend to focus on license holders complying with laws, processes and procedures but there is a significant role the institutions play. It is vital that the institutions understand and respect the boundaries established by law. Then the institution can implement rules, policies and procedures that adhere or operate within the ramifications of the perspective law to ensure the rights of others are being respected. State law grants license-holders the ability to carry handguns to public college and university classes (except those in which high school students are enrolled), and faculty members may not ask license-holders to reveal that they are carrying concealed handguns or in any way discourage them from doing what they are legally allowed to do. (University System of Georgia, 2017).

License-holders must understand the meaning of concealing their weapons so they do not unintentionally alarm or harm others in the campus community surrounding them. Concealed means carried in such a fashion that does not actively solicit the attention of others and is not prominently, openly, and intentionally displayed except for the purpose of defense of self or others. Such term shall include, but not be limited to, carrying within a bag of a nondescript nature which is being carried about by such person, or carrying in any other fashion as to not be clearly discernible by the passive observation of others. (Board of Regents Policy Manual, n.d.).

First, it is important to reiterate that House Bill 280 establishes that anyone who is licensed to carry a handgun may do so – in a concealed manner only- anywhere on Georgia’s public college and university campuses, except in certain areas that are specifically listed in the law. If an area of campus is not mentioned in one of those exceptions, license-holders may carry guns there. Unlike “campus carry” laws in some other states, HB 280 does not give colleges and universities in Georgia discretion to prohibit handguns on their campuses or to add any additional exceptions to the ability to carry handguns beyond those already contained in the law. (University System of Georgia, 2017). It would be beneficial if public institutions in Georgia could require comprehensive training prior to allowing license holders to carry their concealed weapons on campus. In some states, public colleges and universities reserve the right to implement additional rules and requirements for license holders to adhere to in an effort to keep their campuses safer. However, as stated above in the HB 280 public colleges and universities in the state of Georgia must comply with the law without exception. Another concern with regards to compliance is not all license holders are law abiding citizens. There has been cases where the assailant was a license holder.

License-holders are to have their guns concealed and they should be knowledgeable about the locations on campus that permit as well as those that prohibit carrying concealed weapons. That brings into question how challenging will it be for license holders to adhere to the location restrictions throughout the day, while their schedules typically involve going to various locations for various reasons. Where are they going to store their concealed weapons while visiting restricted areas? Will storage be provided? This is one challenge presented by the campus carry law. Another question that comes to mind is if weapons are concealed how is it detectable when license holders carry in restricted areas, metal detectors?

Faculty and staff should also make themselves aware of the locations that permit and prohibit the carrying of concealed weapons. Some institutions have implemented tools like panic buttons to alert the authorities of a problem if needed. Some faculty has voiced the “campus carry” law discriminates against them because they cannot carry personal weapons on campus to protect themselves, weapons are prohibited in offices on campus. However, it is important that faculty and staff respect student’s right to privacy, acknowledging they do not reserve the right to ask students if they are carrying a concealed weapon.

There seems to be lots of confusion and frustrations concerning the new “campus carry” law not to mention lots of controversy. There are students that do not fully understand the boundaries or the responsibility to conceal their weapons, so there have been incidents of unconcealed weapons on campus in Georgia like the one previously mentioned. There has also been students that claim ignorance when found in violation of the campus carry law (in relation to responsibilities and obligations of being a license holder in Georgia). Whether the student does not understand, chooses not to adhere, or is completely clueless there are definitely compliance issues with the new campus carry law. It is critical to effectively address these issues as soon as possible.

Campus-carry proponents frequently downplay the risk of accidental shootings, pointing out their scarcity at colleges that already allow firearms and arguing that proper training can mitigate any dangers. But several accidents have occurred over the past several years at schools with campus carry — and they are accidents that almost certainly would not have occurred had concealed carry not been permitted on school grounds:

  • On January 4th, 2012, a student at Weber State University in Utah was carrying a handgun in his pocket when it accidentally discharged, wounding him in the leg.
  • On November 9th, 2012, an employee at the University of Denver dental school was showing her handgun to some colleagues when she accidentally fired it while trying to unjam it.
  • On May 3rd, 2013, a student at the University of Southern Mississippi accidentally shot himself while sitting in a car on campus.
  • On September 3rd, 2014, a professor at Idaho State University accidentally shot himself in the foot in the middle of class. Idaho had allowed campus carry only two months before.

Even among highly trained professionals, gun accidents occur with startling frequency. (Defilippis & Hughes, 2015). It is not just accidents that are exacerbated in the presence of firearms: guns can also escalate otherwise quickly forgotten disagreements into fatal encounters. That potential exists everywhere, and college property is no exception, as these incidents show.

  • On October 9th, a fraternity fight broke out in a Northern Arizona University parking lot. One of the participants ran to his car, grabbed his gun, and opened fire, killing one and injuring three others. The shooter was an avid gun enthusiast.
  • On August 26th, a heated argument in a Texas Southern University parking lot turned deadly when one of the individuals killed one person and wounded a bystander.
  • On January 30th, 2014, a fight erupted in an Eastern Florida State College parking lot. One of the participants grabbed a gun and injured one of his attackers. All three men involved in the incident claimed they were acting in self-defense.
  • On January 22nd, 2013, an argument described as “idiocy” and “stupidity” escalated into a fight on the Lone Star College campus. One of the men pulled a gun and injured the other combatant, and also wounded a nearby maintenance worker.

Further compounding the risk of arguments turning deadly are findings indicating that the college students most likely to carry firearms in public may be predisposed to detrimental behavior. A 2002 study by David Hemenway found that having a gun at college was associated with engaging in more risky and aggressive behavior, as well as drinking heavily, which itself is a major risk factor in firearm violence. And a more recent study in 2015 determined that a significant number of firearm owners, and those who carry firearms in public, exhibit impulsive, angry behavior. This suggests that the young people who may be most apt to exercise a new permission to carry a firearm on their college campuses are a population that security experts might not be eager to see toting guns in their backpacks. (Defilippis & Hughes, 2015).

There are a lot of things to consider no matter what your position is in the campus community, we should all be working together to ensure a safe environment that is conducive to learning and productivity. Faculty and staff can do things like provide updated information via links on their website or in their syllabus of campus carry compliance requirements. There could also be signage or reminders outlining the obligations of license-holders. It would be beneficial to offer comprehensive training on rights and responsibilities of license holders. It is unlikely that this could be mandated by public colleges and universities in Georgia unless it is something that is implemented in the law. Some trained officials have found it difficult to gage when the use of a firearm is necessary, this would be an even more difficult decision for an untrained license-holder. It would be incredibly beneficial for students to have assessments that present difficult scenarios and how to effectively deescalate situations while being armed and unarmed. It is also wise to provide opportunities for license holders to practice to improve their aim for accuracy purposes.     

Beginning July 1, 2017, HB 280 allows any individual 21 or older who possesses a Georgia concealed carry license may, as well as licenses license issued by other states recognized in Georgia, carry a concealed weapon on a public college or university campus in Georgia. Concealed weapons are prohibited in university housing, athletic events, Greek housing, faculty offices, areas where K-12 education occurs, and disciplinary hearings. Any license holder who is in violation of this law shall receive a $25 fine and no jail time. (Laws concerning concealed firearms on Georgia’s campuses, 2018). There are concerns that the repercussions or consequences of not complying with the campus carry law are too lenient. The first offense is a $25 fine but further offenses are treated as misdemeanors. (What Georgia’s new concealed campus carry law means for students and faculty, 2017). Of course this is a controversial topic with strong arguments for and against carrying a concealed weapon on campus, the conversations and debates that will continue for years to come. For now we need it to be clear about what the rules and expectations are in relation to carrying a concealed weapon on campus. 

Case Analysis

In response to tragic cases of gun violence, many states have passed laws to allow for the concealed carry of weapons on college campuses. Legislation varies from state to state based on region but has been “robust” since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School (LaBanc & Hemphill, 2014, p. 61). In May 2017, Governor Nathan Deal signed HB 280, and thus Georgia joined 9 others in the growing number of states allowing concealed carry of guns on college campuses. This law allows for licensed individuals to carry weapons in specific areas of campus like classrooms. The law does not allow concealed carry in dormitories, fraternity and sorority houses, or in classes with dual enrollment students (HB 280, 2017; Stirgus, 2017).

The campus carry law garnered much controversy as it was being considered in the Georgia government. After it was signed, a group of Georgia professors sued the former governor, secretary of state, and attorney general hoping to have it overturned. In the suit, they claim that the law infringes on the University System of Georgia’s ability to set its own policies, which is an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers. The professors are concerned that their academic freedom risk, and some have even avoided controversial conversations in class (Prabhu, 2019; Stirgus, 2017). This case is currently being considered by the Georgia Court of Appeals.

Because this law is in is infancy in the state of Georgia, there is not yet much litigation around it. Other states have passed similar laws in preceding years that have already been challenged and decided on. In order to consider how the challenges to the Georgia law may progress, we can look at an example from the state of Texas. In the following sections, I will summarize the background and issue of the Texas case, discuss the ruling of the court, and analyze the case as it related to Georgia campus carry.


In 2015, Texas became the 8th state to allow concealed carry on college campuses (Beggan, 2017). This law was challenged by three University of Texas Austin professors in July 2016, who claimed that the presence of guns in classrooms violates freedom of speech (Jaschik, 2018). Dr. Glass, one of the three plaintiffs, stated that in addition to her academic freedom and first amendment rights being at risk, the law violates both her second and fourteenth amendment rights. She reasoned that it violates the second amendment in that the “firearm usage is not sufficiently ‘well-regulated’” (Glass v. Paxton, 2018, p. 4). The law also does not provide equal protection because the university “lacks a rational basis for determining where students can and cannot concealed-carry handguns” (Glass v. Paxton, 2018, p. 4). The case was originally dismissed by the district court for not providing sufficient proof that the law violated her freedom of speech. Because the court dismissed her case on the basis of only one claim, she was able to appeal.

The case was appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2018 to consider two issues. First, the plaintiff challenged the district court’s dismissal of the first amendment claim. Additionally, the plaintiff requested that the court reverse the lower court’s ruling on the second and fourteenth amendment claims and remand the district court to consider them because they did not offer any rationale (Glass v. Paxton, 2018).


A panel of 3 judges considered this case in 2018. They ruled to affirm the district court’s finding. In the claim of the first amendment violation, the court cited several cases to justify the affirmation of the district court’s ruling. Constitutionally, plaintiffs must “establish standing to sue” (Glass v. Paxton, 2018, p. 5). Injury must be “concrete, particularized, and actual or imminent” (as cited in Glass v. Paxton, 2018, p. 5). The case was originally dismissed because Glass did not offer evidence to prove that violation of her freedom of speech was or could imminently be violated.

Instead of having the district court rule on the second and fourteenth amendment claims, the appellate court decided to rule on it in order to use court resources more efficiently. In her second amendment claim, Glass argued that individuals have a right for arms to be well-regulated. This is a “fresh take” on the second amendment that condenses the argument to the interpretation of the prefatory clause of the amendment (Glass v. Paxton, 2018, p. 16). The court found that “the prefatory clause does not limit the scope of the individual right codified in the operative clause;” therefore, Glass failed to show that her rights were violated by the law (Glass v. Paxton, 2018, p. 16).

The final claim was that the law violated the plaintiff’s right to equal protection. She claimed that “the university lacks a rational basis for determining where students can or cannot concealed-carry handguns on campus” (Glass v. Paxton, 2018, p. 17). Glass further argued that there is no basis for private universities being able to ban guns on campus, while public universities cannot.  The court found that Glass failed to offer proof to show that the law violates equal protection, thereby affirming the lower court’s ruling.


In analyzing this case, it seems the court is not only well within their power to make such a ruling, but also thoroughly considered the case. The panel of judges based their decision on precedents set by many former cases. For example, they cite Moore v. Bryant, Clapper v. Amnesty International USA, and Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus in determining that the plaintiff lacks standing in the first amendment claim (Glass v. Paxton, 2018). Additionally, the court offered a fair analysis of the plaintiff’s claims. Instead of considering the issue of guns on campus as right or wrong, the court focused on determining if the claims had standing. One could argue that the court did not correctly decide that her first amendment claim had standing, because there are examples of injury from the law in Georgia. The Georgia campus carry law has only been in effect for a short time, but professors claim that they have avoided controversial topics in class for fear of a student with a concealed gun reacting (Stirgus, 2017). The court offers a fair counterpoint to this though: this is a self-imposed injury, which does not constitute as standing. Finally, the court offered a ruling on the remaining claims even when they could have returned it to the lower court. The judges acted in due diligence in ruling on this case.

Applications for Georgia Campus Carry Case

The Glass v. Paxton case can be used as a litmus test for the Georgia challenge to campus carry. The cases are similar in the both are brought by professors who are concerned about safety and academic freedom. The cases also share the burden of establishing standing. This is what ultimately led to the affirmation of the lower court’s decision in Glass v. Paxton. The Georgia case will also have to prove that injury is either actual or imminent for the case to not be dismissed. The notable difference is the claim. While Glass’s claims are based in violations of individuals’ rights, the plaintiffs of the Georgia case argue that the law violates the separation of powers. Perhaps the Georgia professors took note of the case in Texas and chose a different claim in hopes of being more successful.

We can look to the precedent set in University of Utah v. Shurleff to determine how the difference in claim will affect the Georgia challenge. In this case, the state attorney general stated that the policy of the University of Utah to prohibit guns on campus violated state law. The university argued that the state constitution granted autonomy to the university. This is similar to the plaintiff’s claim in the Georgia case, in that they claim that the University System of Georgia has autonomy to decide on campus carry outside of state law under the separation of powers. In the Utah case, the court found that the autonomy granted to the university did not limit the power of the legislature to exercise “general control and supervision” (as cited in Kaplin & Lee, 2014). This case offers precedent to the Georgia Court of Appeals, since it determined that the state is the ultimate authority. There may be differences in the Georgia constitution, however, that require more consideration.


In conclusion, Glass v. Paxton—in addition to other recent court cases—can be used to consider how the Georgia campus carry law challenge will progress. Glass v. Paxton demonstrates that the Georgia case is unlikely to be successful in overturning campus carry. The burden rests on the plaintiff to show standing and subsequently prove the claims of the suit. This is no easy task, especially considering that precedent is on the side of the state. Not only that, but the Georgia case is unique in that the individuals are sued, and not the offices of the Governor, Secretary of State, and Attorney General. The plaintiffs will need to prove that Deal, Kemp, and Carr were working as individuals and not in the role of the office in order for the court to even consider the claim that the law violates separation of powers (Prabhu, 2019). It is unlikely that the Georgia professors will be successful in their quest to overturn the law, but it does still remain to be seen, and higher education professionals nationwide await the decision.

Risk Analysis

The first risk to consider is the general feeling of safety of the students, faculty, and staff of the university. This is of utmost importance, because they are the ones, who make up the entire population of the university. If there is an overwhelming feeling of looming danger, then this will cause issues of enrollment and retention. When looking at the Conceal Carry Law and Campus Carry Bill, it is important to consider that there are various areas of campus that still do not permit weapons: athletic venues, gymnasiums, student residence halls, child care centers, classrooms with high school students, faculty/staff/administrative offices, and rooms for disciplinary hearings (Stirgus & Prabhu, 2018). This essentially leaves room for students to carry their weapons as they are out in public on campus and within classrooms, which is where most campus shootings have occurred in the past. This has certainly caused an array of emotions for many. Faculty and staff have stated that they feel it is discriminatory and unfair that they cannot house their personal weapons in their offices and feel at a disadvantage in the case of needing personal protection and has instilled a great deal of fear in them (Bodenheimer, 2018). Some students and parents feel as though the guns act as deterrents to shootings and thus feel more safe, while others feel that the risk of a shooting is more likely, if students are permitted to carry (Krisberg, 2017).

In reality, when it comes to the emotional aspect of this debate, there is not a “right” answer or feeling, because statistically, the number of school shootings has not been significantly impacted since the banning and/or passing of this bill (Angelis, Benz, & Gillham, 2017). Seeing as how relatively new this bill is, it would not be surprising to see a larger impact of this bill one way or the other within the next several years. However, when it comes to the legal ramifications of the bill, banning this law is simply unconstitutional; per the second amendment to the constitution, every person has the right to bear arms, and the feelings of unfairness held by many faculty, staff, and students is rightly justified, because they are having this right revoked. Additionally, many feel as though having a “good guy with a gun” feels significantly safer than just the bad guy with the gun (Sanfilippo, p.46), because despite any laws, bills, or regulations put in place, there will always be someone who decides they are above it, putting themselves and/or others at risk of danger.

On the topic of breaking these rules, there are actually a numerous amount of faculty, staff, and students, who feels as though there is an immense amount of gray area causing confusion, when it comes to this bill. For starters, there is the ethical issue of feelings of personal safety and rights versus campus-wide safety and how to prioritize which is more important (Harnisch, 2008), because on the one hand, yes, the campus has many people on it, so obviously, campus-wide safety is a priority, but it seems to be a forgotten fact that the campus consists of many individuals, so the individual’s thoughts, feelings, and concerns ought to be considered, when addressing this law. Another contention of misunderstanding, undoubtedly so, is the restrictions to certain areas of campus; some make sense, such as the athletic events and child care centers, but when it comes to scenarios of classrooms with high school students, how is a single student supposed to know if there is a dual-enrollment student in their lecture class of two-hundred students? This raises a lot of questions: should the professor be held liable for not sending out a notification to the class to make them aware of the high school student in the case of legal ramifications? Which begs the follow-up question, would sending out this type of notification infringe on the FERPA rights of the high school student? Does the high school student even have FERPA rights, since they are a college student but still a minor? There is no easy way of enforcing this aspect of the law. The second issue that is faced is the stipulation that firearms cannot be within the students’ dormitories. There are feelings again, of rights being revoked, but also feelings that guns cannot be beneficial in cases of assault or domestic violence, which more often than not, would take place in student housing (Defilippis & Hughes, 2015). How can the university enforce this aspect of the law without further infringement of the rights of the students? It seems to be a misuse of power on the part of the government and university.

Another aspect of misuse and another thought to be considered is the evidence of higher rates of suicide among college students, since the passing of this bill (Valentine, 2019). Statistically, mental health issues have been on the rise, especially among college students, who are always within the top percent of people, who struggle with these issues. Are the guns making it easier for these students to act on their suicidal ideations? It is important to note all aspects of this correlation and not just focus on the guns, because correlation does not imply causation. On the flip-side of this, there is evidence that general crime has either not had any change in frequency of occurrence or has slightly decreased (Gresenz, 2018); this is interesting, because the presence of guns and other weapons on campus has increased the number of accidental instances of violence, because the weapon in question was being misused (Bogost, 2017): the student was showing off the weapon; there was not proper training prior to handling the weapon; etc… Other than this, there is not much outside evidence of there being a rise in campus violence incidents.

That being said, it would be beneficial on the part of the university to implement some type of mandatory safety course and fee associated for the students who choose to carry; Georgia Tech has actually implemented a safety course taught by law enforcement offices to discuss gun safety and Georgia Southern University houses the Shooting Sports Education Center, which offers gun safety course to teach proper use of a firearm (Whitehead, 2017); however, these courses are not mandatory, but they are definitely a good starting point. Also, it would be wise to implement a mandatory active-shooter training within the first-year of college for all students. A couple of suggestions for active shooters have been: “Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate” (ALICE); “Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events” (CRASE); and “Run. Hide. Fight.”  (National Center for Campus Public Safety, 2017) in order to create a greater sense of safety and well-being for the students, faculty, and staff of the university.


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