On March 11, a bill passed through the Georgia State Senate amidst a torrent of controversy, further catalyzing an already contentious, longstanding public debate. HB 859 makes radical changes to Georgia gun law by legalizing the concealed carry of handguns at all public postsecondary institutions.
Actions and ideas which we perceive suspect will always be subject to due scrutiny. HB 859, regardless of its current inapplicability to private institutions like Emory University, necessitates discussion and dissent. As the bill is currently written, the legislative body has failed to craft a solution that alleviates a growing anxiety over safety on college campuses that has been expressed repeatedly by faculty, students and their parents alike. Fear should not be the basis of law, and law not the cause of fear. The legislature’s chosen course of action is just that.
To be clear, there is an undeniable right for all those on public grounds to enjoy a feeling of security. It is understandable that some identify this feeling with an necessity to increase the proliferation of firearms for self-defense; however, countless studies have indicated a contrary reality. More guns are neither sufficient nor necessary to ensure this right.
To be issued a concealed carry permit in the state of Georgia, an individual is required to demonstrate technical proficiency in firearm use. What the individual is not necessarily trained or prepared for is the panic and chaos of an active shooter. The addition of someone who does not have said training to such a scenario could only confuse and make chaotic a situation that does not need extra chaos or confusion.
An effective and adaptable police force on campus is better suited to prevent future national and individual tragedies. More training, better developed response plans and improved communications systems on campus are potentially more effective methods to improve the outcomes of real attacks and reduce the fears of potential ones. Adding more guns is not.
Speaking as a group of college students, the presence of guns on campus would not contribute to a safe atmosphere. The mere idea that any person who is 21 or older and holds a permit could be armed on campus without the necessary and proper vetting of community officers is deleterious to the college learning experience and the safety of students, faculty and staff.
Further, increasing the presence of and access to guns on campus would contribute to an actively unsafe environment. Heated arguments between people can quickly become deadly when passion and impulse are paired with a deadly weapon. A machine designed to kill is not something that should be added to an environment that encourages disagreement and discussion on contentious issues.
The Georgia legislature has not put the interests of college students at the forefront of its efforts, nor has it demonstrated a proper, nuanced understanding of the necessary means of creating a safer campus atmosphere. We urge Governor Nathan Deal to veto this bill and make paramount students’ safety.
The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s Editorial Board.