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Close the ‘Tailgate Party’ loophole in the new ‘campus carry’ gun law

Shirts hang up for sale at a University of Georgia Alumni Association tailgate before the start of an NCAA college football game between Georgia and Missouri.
Shirts hang up for sale at a University of Georgia Alumni Association tailgate before the start of an NCAA college football game between Georgia and Missouri. AP

On May 24 the University System of Georgia issued guidelines for implementing House Bill 280, the so-called “campus carry” bill that was signed into law on May 4 by Gov. Nathan Deal. Under the new gun law — for the first time ever — Georgia weapons license holders will be allowed to carry concealed handguns into classrooms and other places on Georgia’s public college and university campuses.

Notwithstanding the new law, several wise and sensible gun-free zones will remain on campuses and are specified in HB 280.

For example, handguns will continue to be prohibited in stadiums, arenas and other facilities used for athletic sporting events. Unfortunately, according to the USG guidelines and in an apparent oversight by lawmakers, this prohibition doesn’t extend to the so-called ‘tailgating” areas outside these athletic facilities.

College tailgate parties typically revolve around the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Given the clear and well documented linkage between alcohol and gun violence, lawmakers will want to quickly amend the new law by keeping these “tailgating” areas gun-free in order to maximize public safety on Georgia college campuses on game days.

The new campus carry gun law is scheduled to take effect on July 1 and the first home football game tailgate parties for the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech are Sept. 2 and Sept. 4, respectively.

Now is the time to contact the powers that be to express your opinion and urge them to work together to close the “tailgate party” loophole as soon as possible. Here is a list of the individuals and organizations that have the most financial leverage and political influence to expeditiously close the “tailgate party” loophole:

▪ Gov. Nathan Deal (404-656-1776)

▪ Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia (404-962-3049)

▪ Your state representative (Georgia House)

▪ Your state senator (Georgia Senate)

▪ National Collegiate Athletic Association (317-917-6222)

▪ Southeastern Conference (205-458-3000)

▪ Atlantic Coast Conference (336-854-8787 feedback@theacc.org)

▪ ESPN Southeast Region (205-733-3776)

The citizens of Georgia have already spoken loudly and clearly for common sense gun rights laws.

In response to an open records requests, Gov. Deal’s office recently revealed that nearly 15,000 Georgians contacted the governor to express their opposition to the “campus carry” legislation while only 150 called the governor in support of HB 280.

Closing the dangerous “tailgate party” loophole now will signal to thousands of citizens that their voices have been heard by our legislators and other stakeholders in Georgia’s system of higher education.

Jeff Ploussard is a freelance writer in Gwinnett County with with children who attend UGA and Georgia Tech.

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