I have two high school seniors likely to end up at public campuses in Georgia next year, one at the University of Georgia and one at Georgia Tech.
Despite polls showing the majority of Georgians oppose guns on campus and a veto of a similar bill by Gov. Nathan Deal last year, the General Assembly is trying again. Georgia voters continue to oppose efforts to legalize guns on the state’s college campuses, according to a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll.
Neither does Matthew Boedy, an assistant professor of rhetoric and composition at the University of North Georgia. Boedy has devoted a lot of time to researching the claims being made by campus carry proponents in the Legislature, debunking most of them.
He does so again today.
By Matthew Boedy
Advocates of “campus carry” – that policy inscribed in House Bill 280 now before the Georgia Senate that would permit concealed guns on college campuses – continually tell us about other states who has passed similar laws.
They put great emphasis on Utah and Colorado, the two states that have allowed guns on campus for some years. Utah higher education officials fought a 2004 law allowing guns on campus, ultimately losing at the state’s highest court in 2006. Colorado also started allowing guns on campus statewide in 2012 after a court ruling, though Colorado State University began the practice in 2003, banned guns in 2009, and restarted the practice in 2012.
The main sponsor of HB 280, Rep. Mandi Ballinger, R-Canton, highlighted these states in her comments March 3 before the House voted overwhelmingly to pass her bill. Rep. Ballinger noted guns should be allowed on Georgia campuses so anyone can exercise their “right to protect themselves, should the need arise.”
Are people on Utah campuses exercising that right?
I asked the campus police chiefs from the two largest universities in Utah - the University of Utah and Utah State University - for reports from 2004 to 2016 of a victim using a firearm to stop a crime in progress.
Both universities had zero examples to report.
Let that sink in.
“Campus carry” advocates continuously talk about stopping robberies and rapes with guns. Yet in states with a robust history of “campus carry” not one victim reported to campus police that a gun helped fend off an attack.
In other words, the cry from gun rights advocates for self-protection on college campuses has resulted in not a single reported instance of self-protection in more than a decade.
I found similar lack of reports for the use of stun guns by victims since July 1 in Georgia.
To be fair, a lot of crimes nationwide go unreported. The National Crime Victimization Survey reported that from 2006 to 2010, 52 percent of all violent victimizations were not reported to police, though about a third of these were reported to another official, most likely a mandated reporter themselves. Yet not a single report from two universities with a combined staff, faculty, and student population of more than 80,000, roughly the same size as University of Georgia and Georgia Tech. Granted, very few crimes occur on Utah campuses, like Georgia.
Rep. Ballinger and others also repeatedly make the claim (exemplified here) that a “resulting” act of violence or suicide has not occurred during the 2,000 semesters on nearly 200 campuses where guns have been allowed.
But consider this story from Colorado in 2011. According to news reports, a 24-year-old University of Colorado student held police at bay as he sat against a wall at a local hospital in Boulder in 2011, threatening to kill himself with a .357 Magnum. The standoff ended hours later, the man alive. That same man was seen walking near the campus library with that same gun earlier in the day. Because this incident happened while guns were illegal on campus, the man was charged with a felony – unlawful carrying of a weapon on university grounds.
A similar story happened in 2014 with another Colorado student and his three knives hidden on him and his backpack. He had been told not to return to campus by the university due to his “disturbing” behavior. He did and was confronted by police in a classroom. He told them of neo-Nazis trying to kill him and new boyfriends of his ex-girlfriends tormenting him. He was arrested because it is illegal to carry concealed knives in Colorado.
These are two of more than 20 reports of unlawful weapons from 2010 to 2016 that I received through Colorado’s open records laws from campus police chiefs at the University of Colorado and Colorado State University. As for legally permitted guns, it is illegal to drive under the influence and have a gun. There was more than one example of this reported.
Yes, these incidents ended without violence to anyone. Even the guy who had a loaded, but not primed powder pistol in his saddlebag as he drunkenly rode a horse through the Boulder campus in 2013.
But that is mainly because university police did their job well. They know how to handle these situations.
Are Utah and Colorado campuses previews of “campus carry” in Georgia? You decide. One place does not see the need for guns. The other has people in need of protection from themselves. Police are the cause of the former and the providers of the latter.
House Bill 280 will not help Georgia campus police. This is why every campus police chief in the state is against it. Faculty and students are overwhelming against it. And so too is our governor. College and university campuses are sanctuaries, as Gov. Deal noted in his veto of last year’s version of this bill. They are such because we are well-protected by well-trained police.
If you agree, call the governor and let him know to veto guns on campus.
You can send the governor an email through this link.
You can call: 404-656-1776
Or, fax: 404-657-7332