Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby spoke in opposition today to House Bill 512, which would comprehensively sweep away most restrictions on carrying firearms in Georgia, including on college campuses, on public school grounds and in churches.
Contrary to other states where the debate has shifted to restricting guns in the wake of the Newtown school massacre, many of two dozen gun bills filed in the Georgia Legislature aim to expand firearms access and reach.
Many educational leaders are concerned with bills allowing guns in schools and on campuses.
Here is Huckaby’s official statement from today’s hearing on HB 512:
I appear before you today as the chancellor of the University System of Georgia – a system of 31 institutions with 314,000 students and over 40,000 faculty and staff members. But I am also a father, and grandfather. I am a gun owner with many lifelong friends who are gun owners and hunters. Like many of you, therefore, I have experience with guns, and kids, and grandkids.
Guns do not frighten me and I do not demonize them, or their owners. I believe in the Second Amendment.
But in the matter before us, I realize and acknowledge that you may see this issue very differently than me. In my position I believe strongly that allowing our students to carry weapons on our campuses will not increase their personal safety but instead reduce it.
I have spent a significant part of my career working on college campuses. I have served in the administrations at both smaller institutions and this state’s flagship. I can tell you I have seen it all while there, and my experience tells me that for our students and the availability of guns will not increase their safety.
Each of the police chiefs of our campuses agree with me. They are charged with keeping the public safety on our campuses, and they will tell you allowing students to have weapons on campus make their jobs harder, not easier; more dangerous, not safer.
Our campus counselors will likely tell you the same thing. The reality of our modern campuses is we have students who come to us with a variety of personal issues, which create stress; they are on medications.
Many develop issues after coming to our campuses. I am not suggesting that every student is a ticking time bomb – far from it. I am suggesting that adding loaded weapons to an already potentially volatile mix of youthful exuberance, stress, and yes, at times alcohol and other factors, could lead to a tragedy of our own making that we could otherwise avoid.
Georgia law already goes further than many states that have passed concealed carry laws. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, in 23 states the decision to ban or allow concealed carry weapons on campuses is made by each college or university individually – and from the calls we have made, the states are consistent in implementing policy which keeps guns in the hands of only their law enforcement. In Georgia, we permit a concealed carry holder to keep their weapon locked in their car – which the Supreme Court considers an extension of one’s domicile.
To those of you who believe strongly in this bill, I say I respect your views, and your right to hold them. You deal with very few simple issues, and I understand that. I am confident that you are motivated, as I am, by a desire to ensure that our campuses are as safe as we can possibly make them.
I am not sure there is anything I can say to you today to convince you that the provisions in this bill will be detrimental to campus safety. So let me conclude by saying unequivocally the Board of Regents, my administration, our 31 Presidents and their campus security chiefs all believe current law makes our campuses safe, and I sincerely plead that you keep it in place.
–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog