COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Governor Nathan Deal has approved the controversial House Bill 280, or campus carry bill, but it’s not the law of the land just yet.
The Board of Regents is busy working on guidelines to send out to all colleges in the Georgia University System. The guide will help campuses adjust to the new presence of concealed carriers bringing their weapons to school.
Greg Hudgison is the Director of University Relations at Columbus State University. He says no changes will be made on campus until the Board makes its announcement.
“When that happens we will have directives in hand from the University System to tell us how to implement that law,” Hudgison says. “It could be anything from signage on certain buildings to tell gun owners and those who don’t where guns are allowed on campus.”
In the meantime, opposing sides of the gun debate continue to argue over the affect guns will have on student safety.
“It’s not going to increase danger for anyone, it’s not like you’re gonna have drunk college students running around with glocks on their hips all the time,” Josh Horne, a University of Georgia student, says angrily after interrupting a campus carry protest.
Protest organizer Mallory Harris says she and other UGA students wanted to be able to express the dangers they see from campus carry.
“This bill can have a huge impact on student safety,” Harris says. “We wanted to provide people with an open forum to express this is not what we, students and teachers, want.”
Governor Deal says limitations in the bill like barring concealed carriers from certain areas like high school classes, daycares and sporting events won him over. However, Harris says the law doesn’t go far enough.
“It doesn’t say where gun owners should put their guns when they enter those areas, that are on campus. So what’s happening is, they’re asking young gun owners, 21-year-olds, who just got their concealed carry permits, to figure it out themselves,” she says.
And the controversy doesn’t stop there. Community members tell News 3 they’re also conflicted over how guns in a classroom may affect their ability to learn and talk about controversial topics.
“It takes two seconds for someone to take out a gun and pull the trigger and sometimes I feel people take things the wrong way,” says Heavenleigh Daniel, a recent high school graduate and incoming college freshman.
“Personally, I would feel more likely to talk about these topics if I had a gun on me because I would feel more secure in myself,” responds Dakota Mills who will soon be a freshman at Auburn University – Montgomery.
“Imagine being a teacher and wanting to engage students in a discussion of race or of poverty, and there’s a 21 year old in class with a glock on his hip. That’s going to change the very nature of your willingness to engage in a controversial discussion,” says LaGrange College President Dan McAlexander.
But one thing nearly everyone on both sides of the gun debate had in common — skewed statistics.
One man told WRBL News 3’s Mikhaela Singleton he was sure 90% of mass shootings happen on college campuses. Another man was certain police suffered an 8% error rate in shooting the wrong person during an active shooting while citizens on the scene proved better at only 2%. A woman at the UGA protest heard from a police officer citizens are unlikely to be helpful during a shooting.
Here are the statistics WRBL found.
The FBI published an analysis of 160 active shooter events around the nation between 2000 and 2013. Although school shootings make big headlines, they are not the majority. The study shows 45% of shootings were in areas of commerce, i.e. businesses, malls, and open spaces.
The analysis also confirms 13% of active shooters were stopped by unarmed citizens. In fact, 11 incidents were neutralized by school principals, teachers, and students. The overwhelming majority of shootings carried out on school grounds were carried out by current or former students.
Only 3% of all 160 shootings were stopped by armed citizens, and four of the five citizens were on-duty security guards.
Captain Curtis Lockette with the Muscogee County Marshal’s Office says the average person who tries to step in during an active shooting will end up hurt.
“Hearing loss, loss of fine motor skills, vision, tunnel vision. So guess what, the same things that happen to us, will happen to a regular citizen,” Lockette says. “Now enter into that equation a student on campus with little or no training, and that person encounters law enforcement, then you get the possibility of an innocent person getting hurt or killed.”
The numbers seem to agree with him. An independent study by the National Gun Victims Action Council shows 77% of citizens who fire a gun in self defense miss, regardless of training or skill level. And the average violent attack is over in three seconds.
In several of the study’s reported cases, a citizen responding to a shooting with their own weapon instead ended up hurt, killed, or shot the wrong person.
“Our desire is that everyone that says okay I want to carry my weapon on campus, I’ve gone and I have my license, so I’m legitimate within the law, now I want to carry it on campus, now I want to make sure I have the proper training. So that if I have to use this weapon, whether on campus or off, I’m doing it in the safest way possible,” Captain Lockette says. “You can’t just buy a gun and say I’m good at it.”
He says gun owners need the proper training to handle their weapons and keep up with that training regularly. He also says you need additional training on how to protect yourself when your life is in danger.
“If you don’t make up your mind that you can use your weapon and use it on another human being, because when we go out to our range and we do our live fire drills we’re shooting paper. And paper doesn’t shoot back,” Lockette says. “Think long and hard about gun possession, because once you pull the trigger, there’s no taking a bullet back.”
News 3’s Mikhaela Singleton asked several local colleges if they intend to offer gun training courses on campus. They say that decision and plans for added security will come after the Board of Regents issues its guidelines.
In the meantime, Captail Lockette says citizens can take advantage of training at the marshal’s offices, sheriff’s offices, and gun ranges around the Chattahoochee Valley. He also says to remember the basics of personal safety — run, hide, fight.
“You’re first instinct should be to call us, call police,” he says. “Pulling out a gun or heading towards danger should never be your first option. First, you run. If you can leave an area, do so. Second, you hide. On campus, that means in a classroom, lock the doors, turn off the lights, turn phones off or on vibrate and call police. And the very last thing is fight. If you are in an active situation and you need to defend yourself, then absolutely do so, but that is the last possible option, as it should be.”