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OPINION: Georgians have right to defend themselves on campuses

From 2010 to 2014, violent crimes on college campuses nearly doubled. We are experiencing a dramatic increase in violent crimes on campus as criminals prey upon our defenseless students. The heart of the Campus Safety Act, or House Bill 280, is to provide a safe environment for all Georgians. This bill would allow Georgians who have a Georgia Weapons Carry License to carry their concealed handgun on a public college or university campus and defend themselves against these criminals.

First, let us consider exactly who would be allowed to carry on Georgia’s public college and university campuses under this measure. To obtain a concealed carry license, individuals must be over 21 years old, be fingerprinted, pass state and federal background checks and be reviewed by their county Probate Court Judge. These individuals would not threaten the system since they have already gone through the proper legal route to obtain a concealed carry license.

This bill would not lead to an increase in higher education expenses like some critics claim. Georgians with a license would not need new screenings and in fact are not the people who need to be screened, as they carry their weapons responsibly. Criminals in our society do not care what lawmakers under the Gold Dome say or what signs posted on buildings say – they are in gun-free zones to prey on defenseless victims. Criminals will continue to prey on our state’s university students despite screening individuals upon entering a building.

Most importantly, this bill is about choice. This bill would give Georgia’s men and women the right and the choice to defend and protect themselves. The legislature recognizes that individuals should have the opportunity to make their own decisions. As the current law dictates, students are disarmed by the overreach of our public colleges and universities and unable to take responsibility for their own safety.

More than 150 college campuses across the country have allowed concealed carry for a combined total of almost 1,500 semesters (spring/fall) for the past 20 years. Not one of these campuses has seen a single act of violence, including threats, or a single suicide attempt as a result. There have only been three accidental discharges, two by faculty and staff members and one by a student, none of which resulted in serious injury.

Amid all the misinformation and emotion surrounding HB 280, we must remember that this bill is not about irresponsibly arming students but rather about safety and responsibility. Let me be perfectly clear – we have taken away our citizens’ ability to exercise their constitutional rights. This bill would restore and protect the rights of all Georgians. We should not put bullseyes on our students and leave them defenseless. We should allow them the right to defend themselves and not fall victim to campus crime.

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