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Opinion: Ten reasons Gov. Nathan Deal ought to veto campus carry law

Matthew Boedy, an assistant professor at the University of North Georgia, has researched whether guns are needed on Georgia's public college campuses. Based on his research, Boedy says they are not needed and will not enhance safety.

You can read his research here and here. 

In the wake of the General Assembly's passage of the campus carry legislation, Boedy urges Gov. Nathan Deal to veto House Bill 280 and lists 10 reasons.

By Matthew Boedy

If political writers and those who crafted the midnight version of HB 280 are correct in their prognostications, Gov. Nathan Deal will allow guns on college and university campuses. Here are 10 reasons why you, sir, should veto again:

  1. If you wanted guns banned from faculty offices, it is unclear whether this bill does that. I’m no lawyer but I do have an advanced degree in something that deals with grammar. And even I don’t know if House Bill 280 as passed bans guns from faculty offices. Others who I have asked also are confused. The phrase reads the proposed allowance for guns would “not apply to faculty, staff, or administrative offices or rooms where disciplinary proceedings are conducted.” Oh, for want of a comma after “offices.” Need I remind the governor of the company that lost millions due to the lack of a comma? Does the line mean that faculty offices only used for disciplinary proceedings would not have guns? Or does it mean that indeed no guns would be allowed in any faculty office at any time? No one I know holds such hearings in their office but that doesn’t stop the legislators who voted for this bill thinking we do.
  2. If guns are banned from offices in this bill, can I as a professor ask a student if they are carrying? And what if they are? Do they return the gun to their car? If guns are not banned from offices, can I hold office hours in the campus police station? There are other questions about insurance, storage areas, hospitals run by universities, and mental health. Texas gave its universities a year to answer such questions. HB 280 gives us presumably until July 1.
  3. This year’s sponsor of “campus carry,” Rep. Mandi Ballinger, R-Canton, told 11 Alive some weeks ago that guns on campus were needed because of all the male professors hitting on female students, presumably alone together in their offices. Well, that problem wouldn’t be addressed by this bill if indeed guns are banned from faculty offices. And of course any faculty who wanted wouldn’t be able to have a gun in their office. So they can’t so easily go armed into the classroom next door and “take out” active shooters, the ideal scenario of gun advocates. Who is this bill supposed to be helping?
  4. The bill also would ban guns from “any room or space being used for classes in which high school students are enrolled through a dual enrollment program…” If the intent is to protect these 16-and-17-year-olds from guns, it does not do that. Surely the legislators who voted for this bill know that these students crisscross campus like other students, taking my First Year English course in one building and Biology 101 in another. Under this bill they would be around guns in hallways but not in classrooms, lobbies but not labs.
  5. On the subject of banning guns from the presence of this age group, gun advocates are implying then these teenagers are too young and immature to be around guns. But at the same time the Georgia legislators who voted for this bill are more than willing to let first semester freshmen around guns. Man, what a difference a summer makes in a teen’s life.
  6. Also these legislators are also saying when on a college campus these high school students should not be protected by guns held by concealed carriers in an active shooter scenario, that mythical “sitting duck” attack described by gun advocates. I suppose the police will have to protect them. Or they can act themselves, like tackling an intruder. Or put themselves between the vulnerable and a gun. Or use reasoning. Or stand behind me.
  7. The fine for a non-licensed person who brings a gun on a Georgia campus is to be no more than $10,000. The crime will also be a felony. That is stiff, as the governor wanted in his veto from a year ago. But under this year’s bill, the fine for a licensed gun owner who doesn’t conceal their gun or carries it in a banned place is $25. And the crime is a misdemeanor. I am sure that will be a deterrent.
  8. The slippery slope will have begun, if it has not already. First, gun advocates wanted Tasers and stun guns on campus (which students are not using). That wasn’t enough. Now they want guns. Yes, the bill has some banned locations. But you don’t think the NRA caucus in the Georgia Legislature will come back next year to erase these imaginary lines they so complain about? And yes, the bill limits guns to licensed people 21 or older. But just this month, the governor of Utah – where they have had “campus carry” for a few years for people 21 and older – signed a bill allowing it for people 18 and older. You don’t think the NRA caucus wants that next? By the way no one uses guns to stop crimes on Utah campuses.
  9. The overwhelming majority of faculty, students, and staff don’t want guns on campus. Campus police chiefs don’t want guns on campus. The university system doesn’t want guns on campus. Did I mention there was less House support for HB 280 in the wee hours of March 30 compared to the March 3 vote? Same with the Senate.
  10. And you, sir, as the governor of this state do not want guns on campus. You said so yourself in your forceful veto last year: “If the intent of HB 859 is to increase safety of students on college campuses, it is highly questionable that such would be the result.” Our campuses are just as safe as last year. There is no crime wave. Despite misleading statistics from gun advocates, some even spouted from the Well in favor of this bill, our campuses are overwhelmingly safer than other places in our state. And there is the historical argument you so strongly 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 majority of Georgians don’t either. Which is why they also don’t want guns on campus.

Please veto House Bill 280, Gov. Deal. It is the right thing to do.

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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.