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DeKalb student to governor: Veto campus carry so I can feel safe at a Georgia college

Jacob Busch is a junior at Chamblee Charter High School. He is also editor of his school newspaper. In this piece, the DeKalb County honors student explains how guns on campus will likely cause him to decide against attending a Georgia public college.

A page in the state Senate in 2016, Busch was thrilled when Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed last year's campus carry legislation. He is urging Deal to do so again this year with the 2017 campus carry legislation, House Bill 280.

By Jacob Busch

On Sine Die last year, the final day of the legislative session for the Georgia General Assembly, I took a break from my Senate page duties to pursue a story for my high school’s newspaper. The topic: House Bill 859, more commonly known as the “campus carry” bill.

The bill, which would have allowed permit holders to carry concealed handguns in most places on Georgia’s public college campuses, including classrooms, was vetoed by Gov. Nathan Deal. He cited numerous issues with the bill in his veto message, noting it was “highly questionable” student safety would improve from more guns on campuses and that he did not “find that such justification” to stray from previous gun-free protections on campuses existed in HB 859.

I made calls to rally other Georgians to encourage the veto. I  talked to a friend who had chosen the University of Georgia over Princeton University about the bill (he strongly opposed it). With Deal’s eloquent denouncement of the legislation, I felt for the first time the governor had heard my voice on an issue that my local representatives did not.

Now, almost a year after his first veto of guns on campus legislation, Gov. Deal has House Bill 280 on his desk. Despite this push for more guns on campuses, opposition in the Georgia higher education community is tremendous.

The Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia opposes the bill, and the Chancellor of the Board testified against it at the State Capitol. The president of UGA opposes the bill, as does the president of Georgia State University.

The fight against guns on campus is a personal one for me. In a year, I’ll be off to college, and I may attend one of my state’s respected institutions. I am fighting not only for the quality of my future college career, but also for those of other students who will be sitting beside me in lecture halls.

This is what passage of the legislation would mean for some of our most revered educational institutions: the volatile mix of alcohol and deadly weapons would threaten the safety of young adults who are enjoying the inevitable party life of college. The academic stress that many students experience would be exacerbated with greater access to weapons on campus.

I attend one of Georgia’s most prestigious high schools; Chamblee ranked 14th in the state in the U.S. News & World Report Best High School list released last week. I have seen the immense pressure that the best and brightest of this state face. We cannot afford to lose more of our peers to suicide because it is easier for them to access a handgun at their university.

Texas has seen the ramifications of a similar campus carry law firsthand. Since Texas enacted campus carry last year, prestige has been lost; professors sued the state and its flagship school, the University of Texas; and prominent faculty have packed their bags and quit. We can only expect the same here if HB 280 becomes law.

Like my friend with whom I discussed this bill last spring, I plan on applying to both UGA and Princeton. If this bill is signed into law by our outgoing governor, I will be unwilling to attend a Georgia public university. I am unwilling to compromise my safety during some of the most exciting and formative years of my life, and more students will follow if HB 280 becomes law.




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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.