Today's column is part three in a continuing series on bills pending in the General Assembly. HB 29, scheduled for a committee hearing this afternoon, would repeal the language banning the carry of firearms at postsecondary schools, that is, colleges, universities, and technical schools.
HB 29 would accomplish this task by defining government buildings to exclude colleges and vocational or technical schools, and then remove the language pertaining to postsecondary schools from the law banning the carry of firearms at schools. The intent is that faculty, employees, students, and visitors who qualify for a Georgia weapons carry license could exercise their right to self defense in Georgia's colleges and universities.
HB 29, the Georgia Campus Carry Act of 2013, was introduced by Charles Gregory (R-34) and is cosponsored by several other representatives. The bill is scheduled for a hearing today, February 18, at 2:00 pm in the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee, room 406 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building. Meeting Notice Here. According to its web site, the grassroots activist group GeorgiaCarry.Org supports this legislation by Rep. Gregory, who is a member of the group.
According to the researchers at GeorgiaCarry.Org, the number of states that ban firearms at colleges is 24. You can see their map here. While six states are listed as indeterminate, or, like Illinois, do not allow carry anywhere, much less on college campuses. The remaining states all permit license holders to carry on college campuses, including, ironically, California.
It appears that Georgia still has more places off limits than California.
None of the other states permitting the carry of weapons have experienced license holder students, staff, or visitors misusing their firearms, losing them, or negligently causing firearms accidents. According to Clark Aposhian, the President of the Utah Sport Shooting Association, the fears about guns on campus are not realistic. Mr. Aposhian notes that Utah is a state where it has been legal to carry into college campuses, and, for that matter, elementary schools, for many years, and Utah's colleges lost a lawsuit regarding their attempt to ban guns through instituting policies against them. Other states that have lost similar lawsuits recently include Oregon and Colorado. In spite of the legality of firearms in Utah schools, Mr. Aposhian responds to the fearful critics by telling CNN that there have been no accidents or incidents involving educator's firearms in the state, nor have there been any school shootings in the state. With respect to training, Mr. Aposhian, himself a trainer, states, "When that shooter gets into the classroom, the teacher doesn't need to do a lot of tactical training to access and engage a firearm. Point it at the shooter, (who) is probably going to be 5 to 10 feet away, and press the trigger -- thereby alleviating that option of jumping in front of the kids to soak up the bullets."
It should be noted that if HB 29 passes, most students would still not be able to carry firearms in Georgia on college campuses, for the reason that the law requires one to be 21 years old to obtain a Georgia weapons carry license. Accordingly, it would only be the older students carrying weapons.
In addition, it is well known in this state that many students take advantage of the exemptions afforded in OCGA 16-11-130 to carry a weapon on campus. The persons listed in this exemption list include police officers and those in the military service of the state or the United States.
The main objection to this bill is that students are assumed to be incapable of carrying a firearm without misusing it. These same students carry outside of campus without any of the fears of their opponents being realized, and it is unlikely that carry on campus will be any different. When the General Assembly removed the prohibition as it applied to parking lots in 2010, the Board of Regents opposed the move, citing public safety concerns, but the change in the law has resulted in no public safety incidents.
Moreover, college students have successfully defended themselves off campus in crowded conditions without injuring innocent bystanders. Ask Ryan Moore, a 22 year old college student with a Georgia weapons carry license who was involved in an attempted carjacking in December of 2010 in a grocery store parking lot. Mr. Moore received stitches in his neck from the carjacker putting a knife to his neck, but managed to successfully fended off the attack by shooting and killing his attacker, all without injurying any innocent bystanders.
Meanwhile, Georgia students continue to be victimized by violent criminals on campus, and the General Assembly continues to require those student victims to be unarmed. Just this month, a man was shot inside the gym at Morehouse. Last month, a man with a knife attempted to rape a UGA student. Georgia Tech experienced two armed robberies at gunpoint on January 15. It is well past time for rapists, armed robbers, and other violent criminals to need to question whether their intended college student victims are as defenseless as they at first appear.
This is part three in a continuing series.