Beyond Policies:  Understanding Students' Safety Concerns in Campus Carry Schools

Beyond Policies: Understanding Students' Safety Concerns in Campus Carry Schools

According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been over 160 mass shootings so far in 2023 along with a general increase in crime. Given the worrying statistics, we were curious about how safe university students felt and decided to interview people between their classes.

All the students that participated said they generally feel safe on campus; however, it was startling how few were aware of the campus carry laws that exist at the state level.


Campus Carry in the United States

As of 2023, 11 states have legislation allowing students to carry concealed firearms on campus, and many others allow individual schools to set their own policies. The law went into effect in July 2017 and is state-wide for Georgia. While the information on Campus Carry is publicly available, we asked students on and off-camera their opinions.

While our research began as a simple discussion of safety, we quickly discovered that many students do not know campus carry exists. This is especially true for out-of-state students. It's enough of a struggle to keep up with new legislation in one's home state, but out-of-state students have to juggle two. We visited multiple Universities in Georgia and interviewed dozens of students.


Out-of-State Students are Unaware of the Law

We asked students how safe they felt traveling here and there throughout the day. At one University, the campus spans the city, with the buzzing downtown environment clearly visible from classrooms. The only real distinction between the downtown area and the campus is a simple border of shrubs. Beyond the border, one finds stylistic changes that identify the campus, such as classical architecture and more greenery, but there is no hard barrier.

Despite the open and sprawling nature of the campus, students overwhelmingly feel safe. According to our discussions, they have no problem commuting to and from class during the day. Some were more concerned at night and wished that there were more lights, and others noted how students go out for a night on the town and come back to campus intoxicated. However, they said they feel less safe off campus, especially at night, and were more concerned once they learned about campus carry.

In our first discussion, we spoke with Lizzy, a first-year student from out of state who generally felt very safe on campus. While talking to her, it became clear that she had not heard of Campus Carry Laws, and we asked how she felt about that. Her response was one of surprise, especially given the increased number of shootings in the downtown area, and she was nervous at the idea of her classmates carrying firearms. What surprised us is how Lizzy was not an outlier. Only a few out-of-state students that we interviewed were aware of the legislation.


Reactions to the Law

We can't always be 100% up to date on the letter of the law, but it was surprising that not a single out-of-state student we spoke to knew about Campus Carry, given its implications. One student we talked to on the lawn, where students study and eat lunch outside, said, "It's scary to think that there could be a pistol in any of these backpacks on the grass." Every out-of-state student we spoke to responded with a degree of surprise and dislike at the law. This was even true for students who consider the right to bear arms as important to them. "Yeah, I like guns, but I don't think school is the place for them," said one sophomore.



Regardless of one's political opinions on firearms, and even firearms at school, we all want students to feel safe. Our interviews show that, at least in Georgia, many students feel less secure because concealed firearms are allowed. We cannot say that campus carry has directly caused more violence as opposed to being a mere correlation. Still, it has hindered many students' perception of their safety. Regardless of local gun laws and political opinions, students nationwide should be able to learn and better themselves with peace of mind.



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