G.P. “Bud” Peterson, president of Georgia Tech, sat down with writers at the AJC today and made clear that he did not support the pending legislation in the Georgia General Assembly to allow guns on college campuses. (We talked about other education issues that I will write about later.)
Under a bill in the House, Georgia gun owners with conceal carry permits could bring their guns everywhere except the courthouse and the jailhouse. The restrictions on churches and campuses would be lifted. The bill was discussed Wednesday at a packed hearing. See the AJC story
“Absolutely not,” said Peterson, who was appointed as the 11th president of Georgia Tech in April after serving as chancellor at the University of Colorado at Boulder and provost at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York. In addition, Peterson has held various positions at Texas A&M University and taught mathematics, physics and chemistry in Kansas.
In other words, this man has been around students and on campuses all his life and he doesn’t believe that guns will better protect students.
But let him do the talking.
In responding to the argument that an armed student would have helped in the deadly shooting rampage at Virginia Tech, Peterson said, “I believe if a student had a gun, he would have gotten shot.” In the chaos of that horrible morning, police were looking for someone with a gun and did not have the time to figure out the good guys, said Peterson.
Speaking of Tech, Peterson said there were 20,000 young people at his university. Mixing alcohol, guns and 20,000 students is a “terrible combination…I think it is a recipe for disaster.”
Gesturing to his communications VP sitting next to him, Peterson noted that Jim Fetig was former military. Along with Fetig, Peterson estimated there were probably 50 to 100 people on the Tech campus that he might wish had a gun someday if an incident occurred.
“But there are 19,900 that I would be praying didn’t have a gun,” he said.
As an engineer, Peterson understands probability and noted that there was a very tiny probability of such a deadly incident ever happening.
To those who would point to the spate of armed robberies of Tech students, Peterson said guns weren’t the solution. More alert students were.
He noted that the robberies follow the same pattern: A male Tech student listening to his iPod is walking in the neighborhoods around the campus very late at night and is surprised by someone jumping out of car suddenly and demanding his iPod, cell phone, laptop and wallet. (Crime on campus is actually down, he says. It’s the surrounding area that poses the danger.)
The victims have largely been male students because females are aware of the risks in walking along at night and don’t do it, he said. “But the young men feel invincible, which is why we send 18-year-olds off to war,” Peterson said. “I am not trying to blame the victims but they aren’t being smart.”
Peterson had some help Wednesday from a student representative: According to the AJC report on the legislative hearing:
Alina Staskevicius, Georgia Tech’s student body president, warned that allowing guns onto college campuses could pose a risk to vulnerable students struggling with new relationships and overwhelming new atmospheres.
“It’s like throwing gasoline onto the already volatile atmosphere of a college campus,” she said. “The risk of an explosion is too high.”