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UGA grad student: Campus safety takes hit with gun veto

Vicki Scullion is a Ph.D. student and graduate assistant in the Department of Educational Theory and Practice at the University of Georgia College of Education.

By Vicki A. Scullion

Feeling safer now?

Well, I’m not. As a graduate student at the University of Georgia in Athens, I’m actually feeling less safe than I was before Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed the campus-carry concealed handgun bill Tuesday. If I know that there’s no one on campus with a legal right to carry a concealed weapon, why wouldn’t criminals know that, too?

Universities that publicly announce their law-abiding, registered-gun-owning, concealed-permit-carrying faculty, staff and students are completely unarmed and unprotected are simply making it easier and safer for criminals to commit crimes with guns on campus.

The bill would have allowed anyone 21 or over to carry a concealed handgun on Georgia campuses if they had a valid permit. While Deal mouthed concern over the safety of on-campus daycare centers and high school students taking college-level courses, I fail to see how these children’s lives would have been endangered if the bill had passed.

Every day, permit holders exercising their Second Amendment rights quietly and safely carry their concealed weapons into daycare where they pick up their children, restaurants full of children and teens and crowded movie theaters. They simply want to protect themselves and their families from criminals who have no difficulty obtaining weapons without being troubled by a background check or having to show up at a courthouse to register for a legal permit to carry concealed.

Why shouldn’t those of us who work and study on campuses also have the right to defend ourselves from those who aren’t going to follow the gun laws anyway?

It’s laughable that Deal cites historical precedents for his veto. His solemn pronouncement appeals to the emotions and little else: “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.” Since we don’t live in the early days of our state and nation, perhaps it’s time to rethink the “because we’ve always done it that way” excuse for denying necessary change.

Our “sanctuaries of learning” are not respected the way they were more than 200 years ago, and, in a way, that may be a step in the right direction. When Jefferson and Madison opposed firearms in 1824 at the University of Virginia, they were no doubt more concerned about keeping the privileged white men who attended the university from fighting duels of honor on the campus quad than they were about students and faculty being able to protect themselves from criminals with firearms.

When was the last time anyone had to stop a duel? Jefferson and Madison were not able to divine the future; it’s a different time, and we have different problems. We have got to stop living in the past.

An open announcement stating that our faculty and students are unarmed makes us unsafe. If you were a criminal, wouldn’t you be more likely to target someone who you know won’t be carrying a gun? Instead of protecting us, you’ve left those of us who attend or work at Georgia universities vulnerable to predators and criminals.

Shame on you, Gov. Deal.

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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.