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Opinion: Crime data show Georgia college students, faculty, and staff don’t need guns.

Will he or won't he?

That's the question thousands of parents, Georgia college students and professors are wondering as Gov. Nathan Deal has 27 days left to veto the campus carry bill.

House Bill 280 would allow anyone with a concealed weapons permit to carry firearms on public college and university campuses, with exceptions that include dormitories, fraternity and sorority houses, and buildings used for athletic events. On-campus child care centers would also be excluded, as would areas on some college campuses where high school students attend class.

Unclear is where Georgia college students who live on campus would store guns since firearms are not allowed in dorms. The sponsor of HB 280 contends most older students live off-campus, and they can bring their guns to class rather than leave them in their cars, which opponents contend would increase break-ins by gun thieves. In its campus carry law enacted last year, Texas allowed gun safes and lockers in university housing.

Opponents of the Georgia law are hoping the Oxford comma issue -- does a missing comma in the list of places where guns would still be outlawed mean that faculty offices are only banned if they are also rooms where “disciplinary hearings are conducted" -- will cause Deal to veto.

University of North Georgia professor Matthew Boedy, who has emerged the most research-driven voice against guns on campus, hopes to give the governor more reason to veto the bill with his latest investigation into whether campus carry has enhanced student safety elsewhere.

By Matthew Boedy

On March 20, I wrote on this blog about my public records research into the link between guns on campus and stopping crime. I asked the University of Utah and Utah State University campus police for any report of a victim using a gun to stop a crime since those universities started “campus carry” in 2004. They had zero records.

Let me add to the list of schools with no such reports:

The University of Texas and Texas A&M University, where “campus carry” started Aug. 1.

The University of Idaho, Idaho State University, and Boise State University where “campus carry” started in 2014.

The University of Mississippi, where a limited version of “campus carry” started in 2013.

And Oregon State University, where “campus carry” started in 2012.

None of these schools had a single report of a rape, robbery, or other violent crime being halted by a gun. Not one since guns were allowed on campus. That’s more than 135 semesters (fall, spring, and summer) at nine major state universities in rural and urban settings, all with student populations on par with Georgia’s top tier schools.

Students, faculty, and staff on these campuses just don’t need guns.

Similarly, in Georgia there is no need. There is no crime wave as “campus carry” advocates persist in saying. There is no “200 percent” increase in rapes at Georgia Tech, as Rep. Mandi Ballinger claimed in her March 3 speech in favor of House Bill 280. Check the school’s campus safety report: 19 in 2014, and 10 in 2015. That’s a drop of about 50 percent. [She is likely referring to the Uniform Crime Reporting chart where 1 rape was reported in 2015 and 3 in 2016. Even the FBI warns against using those stats in such a context-less manner.]

And another fact on campus crime in Georgia: not one person has used a stun gun or Taser to stop a crime at five Georgia campuses since they were allowed last summer.

Our college campuses, like campuses nationwide, are overwhelmingly safer than other public areas. The numbers don’t lie. And in the case of guns stopping crimes on campus, the lack of numbers don’t lie either. House Bill 280 just is not needed.

Those pushing this policy consistently state that guns would be used to stop crimes.

But consider this story beginning on early Friday morning on the campus of the University of Mississippi. According to a campus police report, officers were called to a student’s near-campus apartment where there had been an armed robbery. A male student was assaulted and robbed at gunpoint by someone who took off toward campus. What was stolen? The student’s 9mm Glock.

The point: the gun owner couldn’t even stop the armed robbery of his own gun. And if you are wondering, police found the gun in the tank of a toilet in a campus apartment nearby and arrested someone in that apartment for the robbery.

One must wonder why “campus carry” has been a focus of the Georgia Legislature for so long. And why they didn’t learn anything from Governor Deal’s forceful veto last year.

He noted “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.”

The lack of reports from other states also say that. If the states with “campus carry” teach us anything, it is that guns aren’t needed, aren’t used, and are only negative elements on campus, susceptible to accidental firings and other dangerous outcomes.

Consider this also from the files of Ole Miss police: In December 2014, a female Ole Miss student was almost hit by a stray bullet from a gun being “played with” in the adjacent apartment in a campus housing complex, according to a police report. No one in that adjacent apartment who heard or saw the gunshot called police. Police arrested the person they thought to be the shooter because guns are banned from student housing at Ole Miss, as they would be under House Bill 280. Yet that didn’t stop someone from having it and using it.

Or consider this third story from Ole Miss. Two members of the Ku Klux Klan were arrested in October after police found guns in their truck on the Oxford campus during a rally/protest of the Confederate flag. Ole Miss was in the process of removing the flag from campus and a large, predominantly black group was rallying for its removal while a large, predominantly white group, some wearing Klan shirts, were protesting.

Two points here. One, the men were charged with having guns on campus. In Mississippi it is illegal for the large majority of people to have guns on campus. Mississippi limits guns on campus to certain “enhanced” concealed permit holders. Georgia does not have such a tiered system.

Second, consider the more important part of this story: the presence of guns on campus during a highly charged, racially divided protest over a symbol that was used to justify the killing of, most recently, nine black church-goers in Charleston, SC. Knowing there might be guns would radically alter that protest in many ways. Or imagine a student nodding or pointing to their concealed gun in their bag during a class discussion. And suggesting to me, the professor, or another student that we might want to rethink our words.

These stories are the future for Georgia colleges and universities if House Bill 280 is signed into law. Other future stories would include the mixing of guns and alcohol, guns and mental illness, and guns and minors.

If you agree, call Gov. Deal and ask him to veto House Bill 280. He was right the first time on “campus carry.” Call: 404-656-1776 or Fax: 404-657-7332.  Or email Deal here.



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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.