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Scottie DeClue

HB 280 Effective July 1, 2017, Mayor Tomlinson and CSU president Markwood respond



So ends an era this Thursday, May 4, after Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law the controversial House Bill 280, which approved the permission of concealed firearms at public institutions of postsecondary education. Deal vetoed an identical bill in 2016 that would have allowed guns on some college campuses.

Columbus State University, which is a public institution under the University System of Georgia, will be affected as early as July 1, 2017, when the new legislation authorizing the carrying and possession of concealed handguns on college campuses officially goes into effect.

How the new policies and procedures of HB 280 will be implemented at CSU in terms of security and administration has not yet been clarified. In a mass email sent on Friday, May 5, CSU president Chris Markwood made the following statement about procedural implementation:

“The [University System of Georgia’s] office will be issuing implementation guidance to all institutions, including Columbus State University. We will not be making any changes to policies until we receive this final guidance.”

Markwood said he recognizes that many people feel strongly about the new law, and he advocated that the CSU community make a collaborative effort to “implement the new law appropriately, and continue to provide a top-quality education.” 

Deal addressed the new legislation in a public press release stating that the measure serves to protect students who might have to travel through “dangerous territory” to and from school.

“At the present time, assailants can, and do, target these students knowing full well that their victims are not permitted to carry protection,” Deal said, “even those who are weapons carry license holders, because they are either going to or coming from a campus where no weapons are allowed.”

Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson expressed disappointment in Deal’s approval of the bill, and voiced concerns about the possible ramifications the bill might pose to students as well as law enforcement.

“I’m disappointed to learn of this. Our state’s law enforcement agencies have cautioned against the reckless expansion of gun carry laws because it makes their jobs more difficult,” Tomlinson said. “Introducing more guns into a volatile situation is rarely, if ever, the answer.”

Tomlinson added that while students have a right to defend themselves from assailants, many are inadequately trained to use or carry firearms. She said that the Columbus Police Department would play a role in the integration of the new law into the school system.

“Our Police Department has a close relationship with the college’s campus security and will work with them in any way we can to ensure the safety of the students and our community.”