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Why is Georgia Legislature so intent on arming college students with guns?

Why does the Legislature keep pushing guns on Georgia college campuses? Polls repeatedly show students, parents and university officials don't want armed 21-year-olds on the state's public campuses.

To build a case that armed students are safer students, gun advocates in the Georgia Legislature evoke crime-ridden campuses and predatory professors. But the data doesn't support that dystopian view. When you look at violent crime statistics, college campuses remain among the safest places in Georgia.

Who steps onto the campuses of University of Georgia, Kennesaw State or Georgia Southern and wishes they had a gun in their waistband? Most of us probably wish we were 18 again.

Yet, state Rep. Mandi Ballinger, R-Canton, contends her bill, House Bill 280, is vital to ensuring students are not defenseless from the threat of a rising crime wave. Her bill would allow students 21 and older with conceal carry permits to be armed everywhere on campus except dormitories, sorority and fraternity houses, athletic events, on-campus child care centers and buildings that house high school classes.

Most of the sexual assaults Ballinger cites in support of campus carry occur in social settings where the victim knows the offender. Half involve alcohol. If lawmakers wants to protect students from sexual assault, equip them with information on alcohol abuse, date rape and affirmed consent, not with firearms.

The bill echoes the campus carry legislation passed last year by the General Assembly and vetoed by Gov Nathan Deal after an outcry from students, parents and university leaders.

I have two high school seniors likely to attend the University of Georgia or Georgia Tech in the fall. Georgia mandates no firearms safety training to carry a gun. It is hard to fathom my children or anyone else’s would be safer sitting alongside an armed classmate with no training. The only people who should be carrying guns across our colleges are campus police.

A study by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research looked at what guns are being used for on college campuses. The report, “Firearms on College Campuses: Research Evidence and Policy Implications,” found 85 incidents of shootings or undesirable discharges of firearms on U.S. campuses from January 2013 through June 2016.

Only two involved a shooter on a rampage. Most were interpersonal disputes that escalated into gun violence; 12 percent were suicides or murder/suicides and 9 percent were unintentional shootings or discharges.

The conclusion of the Hopkins researchers: “Increasing gun availability in campus environments could make far more common acts of aggression, recklessness, or self-harm more deadly and, thus, have a deleterious impact on the safety of students, faculty, and staff.”

State Rep. Karla Drenner, D-Avondale Estates, warned her colleagues the problem of crime on campus cannot be solved by kids with guns. She is right.

“We cannot solve this problem by arming our children,” she said. “We have to arm them with awareness and good sense.”




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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.