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If governor needs reasons to nix campus carry, go back to his 2016 veto statement


Note Friday night: The commenting tool on this blog was broken for 24 hours.  It is now fixed. I apologize for those who could not comment. Maureen

Gov. Nathan Deal is not being subtle in his clues to whether he plans to sign the campus carry bill this week. Unlike last year when he vetoed similar campus carry legislation, Deal appears ready to sign House Bill 280.

In doing so, Deal will be repudiating his passionate veto argument last year in which he cited the historic precedent against guns on college campuses.

Deal's veto was an act of courage we are not likely to see repeated. The governor contends this year's bill is more palatable because it excludes guns from places where he had concerns, including child care centers. But his veto statement last year didn't even mention child care centers.

In fact, his objections were not about where guns would be allowed on Georgia's colleges, but whether they should be allowed.

Deal ought to reread his powerful statement, especially the part that states, "That college campuses should be a 'gun free zone' is a concept that has deep roots in Georgia as well...From the early days of our nation and state, colleges have been treated as sanctuaries of learning where firearms have not been allowed. To depart from such time-honored protections should require overwhelming justification. I do not find that such justification exists."

Deal appears to be fishing for rationales to sign this year's bill, telling WABE he has growing concerns about safety around campuses and in parking lots. He implied law enforcement has not focused enough on those outside areas, a factor most colleges would dispute.

“I am not satisfied that they have done appropriately what they should do in light of this. It's one thing to simply rail against students having the right to defend themselves, but those students have a right to expect that civilian law enforcement would give them the protection that they deserve," he said.

Deal is also adopting the rhetoric of the pro campus carry crowd, describing gun-less students as "defenseless." The governor is ignoring student surveys and petitions indicating the majority oppose opening their campuses to guns and say they'll feel less safe sitting next to armed classmates.

Deal argued last year colleges were safe and campus carry bill would not make them any safer. Not only did he quote conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's ruling that “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on…laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings," Deal went back to the waistcoated wonders to advance his case -- the Founding Fathers.

“Perhaps the most enlightening evidence of the historical significance of prohibiting weapons on a college campus is found in the minutes of October 4, 1824, Board of Visitors of the newly created University of Virginia. Present for that meeting were Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, along with four other members. In that meeting of the Board of Visitors, detailed rules were set forth for the operation of the University which would open several months later," wrote Deal. "Under the rules relating to the conduct of students, it provided that 'No student shall, within the precincts of the University, introduce, keep or use any spirituous or venomous liquors, keep or use weapons or arms of any kind.”

 


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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.