On July 1 of this year, House Bill 280 or Campus Carry was officially implemented across Georgia’s public colleges. The bill passed by the Georgia General Assembly allows carrying and possession of certain concealed weapons in designated properties owned or leased to public institutions of postsecondary education.
For many students, it may take getting used to an armed campus and what that entails. However, with a school motto like “The Military College of Georgia,” one would expect training cadets to be allowed to wield military arms on campus.
While some may have expected this to be the case for our cadets, Policy Letter 22 from the U.S. Army Cadet Command (USACC) contains strict guidelines for our folks in uniform. This policy was adopted as a response to HB280 and requires USACC Cadre to enforce this policy rather than the campus police who will be enforcing the regulations of campus carry on the rest of the student body.
Arms training and fire drills for cadets will not be affected by Policy Letter 22, but they will be prohibited from carrying their own personal firearms on campus while in uniform.
While the policy letter sets out basic guidelines, I contacted the UNG Cadet Command to better understand how the policy is enforced and how violations of the policy would be handled. After a couple of calls, I got through to the Assistant Commandant Maj. (Ret) Richard Neikirk. Neikirk informed me that any breaking of this policy was to be handled by UNG Public Safety and suggested I speak with them.
This proved futile when I contacted Public Safety only to be told they are prohibited from speaking to the press about campus carry policy. Students are allowed inquiry to the campus police regarding campus carry, but as a member of the Vanguard I was redirected to UNG Director of Communications Sylvia Carson.
In an email conversation with Carson, I restated my questions of who enforces the campus carry policy on cadets and who oversees the handling of violations of the policy.
Carson’s initial reply read in part, “As far as who enforces policy, there are different agencies involved with our Cadets… every Cadet falls under all UNG conduct rules and policies. The Professor of Military Science(PMS) enforces rules on Cadets in Army uniforms (especially contracted Cadets) and UNG Public Safety enforces the law. The PMS enforces Cadet Command Policy, which states Cadets will not carry a concealed gun while in Army uniform.”
I sent a follow-up email requesting further clarification. The reply from Carson read as follows:
“The Commandant of Cadets has the ultimate authority to sanction Cadets for violating university policy.”
Though I was getting to closer to understanding how the hierarchy of enforcing campus carry policy on cadets functioned, I still had questions. Primarily, since Policy Letter 22 is a U.S. Army policy, not a university policy, is the Commandant of Cadets still the ultimate authority to enforce the policy as Carson stated, or is UNG Public Safety in charge as I’d been told by Neikirk?
Feeling a bit lost between Carson and Neikirk’s conflicting answers, I reached out to UNG Professor of Military Science Colonel Gery Cummings. We met at the Dahlonega Military Leadership Center to discuss how campus carry relates to cadets and who would handle a violation of Policy Letter 22.
Cummings began by explaining what exactly the cadet would be in violation of, as well as the origin of Policy Letter 22.
“It would be a violation of Cadet Command Policy set by my boss, Major General Chris Hughes,” said Cummings. “The Cadet Command Commander wrote a policy letter that addresses carrying a firearm while in uniform, to include cadets. So if you participate in ROTC, which is voluntary, you are not authorized [to carry a firearm], nor are Cadre. I am under the same policy as cadets.”
Cummings confirmed the policy put out by Commanding General Hughes superseded the campus carry law passed by the Georgia legislature. Cummings went on to discuss how a violation of the policy would unfold. In other words, what might happen if a cadet carries a firearm in uniform.
“It depends, there’s a lot of hypotheticals there,” Cummings said. “If a cadet here in the military leadership center, under my control violated the policy, that’s pretty simple in the sense that they came to an ROTC class and they were wearing a uniform provided by the US government… if they were found to be in violation of that policy, that would be an insubordination-type issue.”
Acts of insubordination by cadets are handled by Cadet Command, rather than UNG Public Safety. Cummings also described what may happen if a cadet were to challenge the Cadet Command ruling.
“If a cadet came down and challenged the policy, yes I would enforce it,” Cummings said. “I would notify my chain of command, General Hughes and say to him ‘sir, Cadet Smith or Jones is in violation of the policy and they are stating state law as their grounds for doing so.’ No one has done that yet. That person could potentially be subject to the uniform code of military justice.”
Though many of my questions were cleared up by Cummings, I was unable to find a set-in-stone protocol for when cadets violate the campus carry policy outside of ROTC classrooms.
For questions concerning the specifics of campus carry, you can reference the HB280 guidelines from the University System of Georgia.