Monday, October 2, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Challenge to campus carry law dismissed by Georgia Supreme Court

A group of professors lost their bid to block a 2017 law permitting firearms to be carried on Georgia university campuses.

ATLANTA (CN) — The Georgia Supreme Court issued an opinion Wednesday affirming the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by five university professors against the state's campus carry law.

Passed in 2017, the law removed public colleges and other public postsecondary educational institutions from the statutory definition of “school safety zone," permitting concealed carry on campus grounds and in classes where there are no high school students enrolled.

The professors sought a declaration from the court that the statutory amendment is unconstitutional, arguing it usurps the Board of Regents' constitutional authority to govern, control, and manage the 28 University System of Georgia institutions.

A Fulton County Superior Court judge granted the state's motion to dismiss the professors' complaint on several grounds, including that they didn't have standing and that their suit was barred by sovereign immunity.

The state's highest court agreed Wednesday with the judge's ruling that the court lacked jurisdiction because the professors' claim had become moot, due to the board having already adopted gun-carrying policies consistent with the 2017 amendment.

"After the governor approved HB 280, the Board’s chancellor provided guidance to USG institutions to 'implement the law as written' and called for each institution to 'review its campus conduct and weapons policies to ensure that they comply with these changes to the law,'" Justice John J. Ellington wrote in the unanimous decision.

He added, "The Board of Regents then amended its Policy Manual and adopted a weapons policy, applicable to all USG institutions, that largely mirrored the 2017 statutory amendments, including the definitions of 'weapon' and 'concealed' and the authority of weapons carry license holders to carry handguns on USG campuses, subject to the same exceptions set out in the 2017 amendment to [state law]."

In their appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court, the professors argued that the revised policy regarding the carrying of weapons on campus greatly increases the risk of injury and death to themselves, their students and others, and significantly impairs their ability to fulfill their educational mission. But the justices ruled that the board's policies were implemented within its governmental authority.

Justices Sarah Hawkins Warren, Carla Wong McMillian and Andrew Pinson did not participate in the case.

Attorneys for the professors did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The campus carry law was later modified in April 2022 by Senate Bill 319, which removed the license requirement to carry a firearm in public spaces. There are some exceptions prohibiting concealed weapons in university housing, athletic events, Greek housing, faculty offices, areas where K-12 education occurs, and disciplinary hearings.

A study from the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City found between the 2001-2002 and 2015-2016 school years, 437 people were shot in 190 college campus shooting incidents.

Last month, two people were injured in a shooting on the campus of Savannah State University, and in March two students at Clark Atlanta University were shot on campus within a week.

Follow @@Megwiththenews
Categories / Appeals, Civil Rights, Education, Law, Regional

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.