Georgia Supreme Court dismisses challenge to law allowing guns on public college campuses

In this March 2016, file photo, a pedestrian walks through the Georgia Tech campus as the downtown Atlanta skyline looms in the background. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Georgia’s highest court on Tuesday upheld a lower court ruling dismissing a lawsuit brought by five college professors challenging the removal of public colleges and universities from a list of “school safety zones” where weapons are prohibited.

Before the 2017 amendment to state law, it was a misdemeanor crime to carry or possess a weapon on property or in buildings owned or leased by a college or university. The five University System of Georgia professors who sued over the amendment said allowing the carrying of weapons on campus went against longstanding university system policies.

They argued the amendment was unconstitutional because it infringed on the Board of Regents’ constitutional authority to govern, control and manage the university system. The state filed a motion to dismiss the suit.

In a unanimous decision, Georgia Supreme Court Justice John Ellington wrote that the complaint shows that the Board of Regents adopted policies on carrying guns that are consistent with the amendment. That makes the question of whether its authority was usurped moot, he wrote.

The professors had argued that there was a violation of the separation of powers that couldn’t be made moot by the fact that the Board of Regents bowed to or approved the new policy.

But the justices disagreed.

“In determining that this action by the Board moots the professors’ challenge to the 2017 amendment, we do not concern ourselves with why the Board took this action,” the opinion says. “Here, what matters is not why the Board adopted the policy in question, but merely that it did so.”