It’s been not quite a year since Texas implemented its controversial campus carry law, allowing permitted gun owners to conceal carry their guns on all four-year college campuses. Concealed handgun licensees will enjoy carrying at the Lone Star State’s junior colleges come August.
With more states looking at Texas and a handful of others to pass similar laws in their legislatures, campus carry advocates and the organizations backing them are receiving more scrutiny as a result.
Though Texas didn’t pave the way for campus carry — that distinction belongs to Utah, who passed its law following the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre — its passage of the law was a big win for the cause, said Texas resident Antonia Okafor, a campus carry advocate and founder of EmPOWERed, a group that advocates on behalf of gun-owning women.
“It launched the national conversation,” Okafor told Guns.com during the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Atlanta last week, where she spoke on stage after President Donald Trump delivered his remarks.
A dozen states currently allow the practice, with some 15 others having attempted to pass campus carry legislation last year. By contrast, there are 16 states that outright ban the practice, regardless of concealed carry allowance.
One of those embattled states is Georgia, where Gov. Nathan Deal on Thursday signed a campus carry bill. House Bill 280 includes changes to a similar bill Deal vetoed last year.
Lindsey Donavan, chapter head of Georgia Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, called the governor’s move a “flip-flop.”
“This will be the legacy he leaves behind,” Donavan told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Guns.com interviewed Donovan at a counter-NRA rally in Atlanta last week, while the gun group held its annual convention just blocks away. Donovan, an Army veteran, said she doesn’t think it’s safe for 21-year-olds with no firearms training to be able to carry guns.
“It’s a dangerous situation all the way around,” Donovan told Guns.com.
And what about insurance because of the added risk associated with guns on campus, Donovan asked. Will students who don’t carry on campus be burdened with extra administrative fees?
Reciprocity is another issue. In Alabama, an 18-year-old can get a concealed carry license that is recognized in Georgia, where the age requirement is 21, Donovan said.
“They often brought up sexual assault during the legislative session and places where these sexual assaults happen — in the bill, guns aren’t allowed there, so why, why are we continuing this argument or this debate over and over and over again? It just doesn’t make sense,” Donovan said.
Donovan cited a 2014 Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll in which 78 percent of Georgians opposed campus carry.
In Georgia colleges and campuses across the country, students are consuming alcohol at problematic levels, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Underage drinking is also a major issue.
According to its research, more than half a million students between 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking. Sexual assault and date rape among the same age group number about 97,000 when alcohol is involved. The drinking problem is so widespread across college campuses, according to the government agency, that 20 percent of college students meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder.
Other consequences include “suicide attempts, health problems, injuries, unsafe sex, and driving under the influence of alcohol, as well as vandalism, property damage, and involvement with the police,” according to an NIAAA report.
Throw guns into the mix and you’ve got a recipe for major disaster, say opponents.
There have only been a few reported incidents involving guns on Texas college campuses since the law went into effect in August — only five such occurrences by permit holders on universities nationwide over the decades, according to controversial gun rights economist John Lott. One of those occurred shortly after that time when a Texas Tarleton State University student accidentally discharged his gun in a college residence hall.
If you ask Okafor, who has recently become one of the NRA’s faces for campus carry, Texas serves as a model for Georgia. Students are drinking on Texas campuses like they are everywhere else.
“Whether you were against it or you were for it … a lot of the people on the other side don’t even want people to start thinking about the fact that students are just as much of a citizen as anyone else and they should have that right to be able to protect themself just like they do off campus,” Okafor said.