By Vincent Fort
The madness of promoting the use of guns and allowing firearms everywhere at any time has reached a fever pitch at the state Capitol.
As the legislative session comes to a close this week, there are three versions of the “guns everywhere” bill circulating at the state Capitol. All versions will make Georgians less safe, not more safe.
HB 875, as amended in the Senate Judiciary (Non-Civil) committee, would allow guns in churches, bars, and schools. Then there is SB 60, onto which the House of Representatives grafted the original version of HB 875.
Rep. Sam Moore introduced HB 1046, which would allow Georgians the right to shoot police officers serving no-knock warrants. Moore backed off that proposal, but even its introduction reflects that the time has come for legislators and citizens to demand commonsense gun safety legislation.
If HB 875 is a political measure, the Republican Party is being held hostage by its extreme, fringe elements who believes that guns should be allowed anywhere at any time under any conditions. Those extremists, especially Georgia Carry, are to the right of Antonin Scalia who said in his majority opinion in the 2008 Heller decision that governments could not ban firearms, but “like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited.”
It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Second Amendment or state analogues.
In the United States v. Miller court decision, the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time.” The decision found support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.
What places are more sensitive than churches, schools, and bars?
There should only be one criteria used when judging whether guns should be allowed on college campus, churches, and bars and other locations — that is whether those places will be more or less safe.
Allowing guns on college campuses will make them less safe. Research shows that the ability to make decisions does not fully form until the age of 25. In addition, mental illness rates are highest among those who are 18 to 25. As a former college professor, I have interacted with students with emotional problems. To give those students greater access to firearms is the wrong thing to do.
Binge drinking and drug use is far too commonplace on college campuses. The combination of alcohol, drugs and firearms is much too volatile. Additionally, rising suicide is an unfortunate reality on college campuses.
A college freshman packing heat in geography class does not make for a safer environment. Indeed, Department of Education and Department of Justice studies tell us college campuses tend to be much, much safer than off-campus locations. The introduction of guns onto campuses will make campuses less safe.
Georgians understand the dangers of carrying firearms on campuses. A recent poll by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution showed that 78 percent of Georgians oppose guns on college campuses. Seventy-nine percent of faculty also opposes campus gun carrying.
The proponents of allowing guns on Georgia’s college campuses have offered no evidence to support their position other than their belief the second amendment allows guns to be carried anywhere, concealed or otherwise. The most shameful part of this issue is that politicians are pandering to the gun advocates who want to have guns not only on campuses but also in bars, churches, and everywhere on an unrestricted basis.
The University System’s Board of Regents, presidents of the state’s 31 public college and universities and their police chiefs, are opposed to guns on our campuses. If the General Assembly passes legislation which would allow guns on college campuses, college law enforcement and administrators will have a nightmare keeping track of permits and gun storage.
Fortunately both SB 60 and the Senate version of HB 875 have both watered down the campus carry provisions. The Senate version of HB 875 has a provision which would require churches to “opt in” if they wanted to allow firearms. That version still would allow teachers and administrators to carry guns in schools with the authorization by a local school board.
It’s time to stop the madness.
State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta.