Georgia Tech professor: Why are guns unsafe for dorms, but allowed in classrooms?

The Senate passed the campus carry bill today. House Bill 859 now goes to the Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature.

The legislation allows anyone 21 or older with a weapons license to carry a gun anywhere on a public college or university campus, except for inside dormitories, fraternities and sorority houses, and at athletic events. The bill requires weapons be concealed.

According to the AJC:

The Georgia Senate on Friday gave final passage to a bill that for the first time would legalize firearms on all public colleges in Georgia, following an emotional two-hour floor debate over the wisdom of letting students carry concealed guns on campus.

If it becomes law, the bill would make Georgia the ninth state to allow campus carry, with nearly two dozen others allowing individual schools to decide. Supporters of the legislation have also linked their effort to the safety of students, noting events such as recent robberies at Georgia State University’s downtown Atlanta campus library that is only steps from the state Capitol.

I received this letter from a Georgia Tech professor opposing the bill. The protests of professors and students did not sway the Senate or the House, and I don’t think Deal will be moved, either.

But I believe the governor will hear from professors about their concerns, as well as from parents. And I think their comments will echo these:

Dear Sponsors of House Bill 859,

I am not one of your constituents, however I am a Professor of Computer Science at Georgia Tech where I have taught and conducted research for more than 20 years. I am writing to share with you my grave concern about House Bill 859 to allow concealed carry of guns on public campuses. I ask that you do not pass this bill.

caitlin Whitehead / SCAD-Atlanta Electronic Professor Burns ILLU 410 975 Spring Brook Drive Lawrenceville, GA 30043 caitlin@caitlinwhitehead.com schoolhouse; school, students, guns, safety, child, law, campus, pistol, shooting, education, SCAD, editorial, illustration, 2014

I firmly believe the addition of more guns to the campus environment will have serious detrimental effects on our students and on the university as a whole. I believe this dispassionately, based on the data demonstrating the correlation between gun prevalence and violence. I also believe this passionately, based on my 20 years of personal experience in the classroom and as a woman on the urban Georgia Tech campus.

My guess is that those who support this bill either dispute the data or do not think such data is relevant, thus I will focus my letter on my personal experiences.

Here is what it means to be a university professor: I stand on a stage in front of a room of students, as many as 75-100. I lecture and lead discussions. With some regularity I assign grades that may well affect the future of the bright students in the room. Sometimes I turn my back, to write on the board. Sometimes my attention is focused on one part of the room and not another. In many classrooms there are doors behind the stage where people arrive late or leave early.

The professor is vulnerable, by virtue of location in the room, the activities of teaching and the role assigning grades. More guns do not make for a better classroom learning environment. More guns mean more potential for violence. How could that be good for learning, the core mission of the university?

The framers of the bill admit that there are places on campus where the right to carry should not be allowed, such as dormitories, fraternity and sorority houses, and spaces used for athletic sporting events. Why these exceptions and not classrooms?

Many of my computer science colleagues at Georgia Tech and elsewhere are leaving their universities for much more lucrative industry jobs. I am a professor because I love teaching and working with students. I have dedicated my entire career to making Georgia Tech a better place. Please listen to the students, faculty and university leaders who believe that more guns on campuses is bad for Georgia.

Sincerely. Ellen W. Zegura,

Professor of Computer Science, Georgia Tech

 

Reader Comments 0

48 comments
Joeleejohnson
Joeleejohnson

What we need in Georgia is more martyrs. If, God forbid, some student shoots Ellen I'll donate toward a permanent memorial.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Thank you to Gov. Deal for showing political courage and not signing HB 859.  I hope and pray that Gov. Deal will veto this potentially life-threatening bill.

quaterhorselady
quaterhorselady

BEFORE the bill was even out of the committee, before arguments were heard our governor remarked that our ( mothers, survivors, clergy, campus security, professors, students, and the head of Georgia's universities) concerns "have no validity"! THAT is how our governor makes up his mind and REFUSES to listen to reason and common SENSE. THE NRA and the Georgiacarry. org got to the governor with what always gets the governors attention. Now that decision has created a firestorm, the governor is having second thoughts. Last year he gleefully signed the Guns Everywhere bill, so we shall see about Campus Carry.

DrKillgrove
DrKillgrove

@deborahblum Because dorms have alcohol and no student would ever come to class drunk. - Said no professor ever

HowdyJune
HowdyJune

Thank you, professor.  I'm just amazed that these legislators did not listen to the Board of Regents, the Chief of Campus Security at the University of Georgia, professors, administrators, and so many others who are far more knowledgeable about student safety concerns than the Legislature could ever be.  Since Governor Deal does not face reelection, I hope that he has the courage and wisdom to listen to professors like you and veto this bill.   Since there has been no outpouring of any demand for this legislation, I am left to conclude that what you face is not an informed legislative body, but one that is driven by the gun lobby and that of the NRA.  

aep
aep

If you let them carry, they WILL carry into their dorms. What's the other choice? Put it in the car in the parking lot? Unless  you put a metal detector at every dorm entrance, you are going to have guns inside. Students will forget they are packing. And yes, there have been robberies and assaults inside of some of the GSU and GATech dorms.



The legislators seem to be more worried that they will be targets than a professor will be a target. ;) Wonder why they feel that way... hmmm.... and someone who really wants to shoot someone else will find a gun and conceal it. 


What makes  you think they are not already carrying? 

CJFowler
CJFowler

Am I correct that it is still unlawful to carry a gun into the capitol? Are the legislators hypocrites or cowards?

Carlos_Castillo
Carlos_Castillo

How does a student packing heat on the sidewalk styep into a dorm and --  woila -- all the sudden not be packng heat?


The bill as passed strikes me as unworkable in practice.  Once concealed weapons are allowed on a campus, they will be carried everywhere.  To expect them to be kept out of frat parties strikes me as fantasy.

FiftycalTEX
FiftycalTEX

@Carlos_Castillo Are "frat houses" OWNED by the university?  Or are they PRIVATE PROPERTY? If the latter, why is it any of the GOVERNMENTS BUSINESS who carries what there.

ccatlanta
ccatlanta

As a professor at a different institution, I share Dr. Zegura's concern about guns in the classroom and I'll add that I worry about a student who I've failed coming to me when I'm alone in my office to complain about their grade, which they do almost every time I give out an F or a D. And don't tell me it's never happened. Dr. David Eschelman of Central Missouri State was shot in the head by a student he flunked in media law class, thus preventing him from graduating that semester. He was a friend of mine and I think of him every time I give out a bad grade. I believe there will be an exodus of professors over the next few years because of this new law.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

@ccatlanta

Using your Dr. Eschelman example, what you're saying is that banning guns from campus did not stop an attack.  That's the fallacy of gun control laws, those intent on breaking the law ignore them and the law abiding are placed at a distinct disadvantage.

FiftycalTEX
FiftycalTEX

@ccatlanta OH MY!  Did the student have a "concealed carry" license?  Did the school have a NO GUNZ Sign?  Was MURDER LEGAL at that state?
  Oh, you forgot to mention that he was shot IN HIS DRIVEWAY and this was 1993, BEFORE legal concealed carry even existed in Missouri.  And you want to move to a gun frree utopia, try Venezuela or Mexico.  It's ILLEGAL for anyone but the government to have a gun there.

quaterhorselady
quaterhorselady

That is a mythical rationale. Police have been killed WHILE armed. So, please explain HOW their guns protected THEM!

quaterhorselady
quaterhorselady

These concerns were voiced at the hearings on this stupid bill and THEY still passed it along party lines.

GAProf
GAProf

Sadly, the support for protecting frats and sporting events over classrooms and libraries most likely reflects the significant college experiences of those signing.

BobtheBiker
BobtheBiker

This will be the end of Political Correctness. Imagine a professor who gives bad grades to someone that supports Trump or Cruz, but otherwise does exceptional work. Toting will make them toe the line. so its all good.

Ralph-43
Ralph-43

@BobtheBiker No question - we do not want critical thinking, broad reading, or challenging Professors in these little Georgia schools.  We want a degree only good in the South and a blood oath to the Confederacy.

redweather
redweather

@BobtheBiker You are a moron, but I hope that is only a pose you adopt online in order to get a rise out of people.

GMAB
GMAB

We'll protect ya'll.

Ralph-43
Ralph-43

You mean when a robber walks in to the unsecured Georgia State library looking for a lap top and sticks a gun in the back of a coed's head, she will be criticized if she does not whirl around and start firing?  This is going to be really good. I don't think one will be able to call it a University any more though or a library.  I hear the term 'Little Syria' in San Francisco and New York. 


Grady is close by and the bodies will be good dissection material for the Emory and Morehouse medical students.   

HowdyJune
HowdyJune

@Ralph-25 Even if that lady in the Georgia State library had a gun, she would most likely make a fatal mistake if she attempted to draw her gun and whirl around.  

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

To the GA Tech student, age 21 or older.

As you can see, from the hysterics of your anti-gun professors, administrators, and fellow students, they don't care that you live off campus and often walk several blocks on the dark streets of Atlanta to come to the library at night to study.  They don't care that numerous classmates have been robbed and assaulted walking those same streets.  Even though you are in your final semesters at Tech, maintain good grades, all the while working and carrying a full class load, they don't think you are mature enough to know which end of the barrel the bullet comes out of.  According to them, the moment you place your weapon inside a jacket pocket, you will morph into a stark raving mad lunatic.

The irony is that they will be safer now that the criminals are not assured of an unarmed victim.

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

@Lee_CPA2


"The irony is that they will be safer ..." 


"WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH"

George Orwell - 1984


You, sir, are an exemplar.  Orwell would be proud.


quaterhorselady
quaterhorselady

The students are a danger to themselves AND others. This NRA/Georgiacarry. Org written bill has NO requirement for training or continued practice. It is a product of the gun manufacturers greed to sell more guns, period. Your children be damned.

Award88
Award88

The difference between dorm rooms and classrooms is possession. In the classroom, the firearm carry will be in direct control and possession of the weapon as they must carry it concealed. In the dorm room, the firearm would be removed from direct control while the person is showering, sleeping, etc. Furthermore, the dorms have a large number of those under the age to carry and possess a firearm. The reality is 90% of college students over the age of 21 live in off campus housing, so they have access to their firearms when they are off campus. But under the current law, those students who can carry off campus are forced to disarm when they attend class. They are rendered defenseless as they walk from their car to class, from class to lunch, from class back to their car. They are rendered defenseless because although they carry in grocery stores, shopping malls, parks, gas stations, movie theaters, responsibly and without incident, it is argued that once  they cross the imaginary line onto the college campus, they are some how emotionally unfit to responsibly carry. The unfortunate reality is that the criminals do not follow the laws and still bring weapons onto college campuses, including the criminals who committed the four armed robberies INSIDE the library at GSU. This legislation gives students the tools to be able to level the playing field with these criminals.

Award88
Award88

@Wascatlady @Award88 those over 21 will have to follow the status quo. But should we deny all the others who do not live on campus the right to carry because less than 10% of 21 year olds live on campus and may not be able to?

Further, the legislative, judicial, and executive state offices have full security screenings. Any government building can ban firearms by providing full security screenings, that would include public colleges and universities. If these public colleges are so adamant about keeping their students and staff as defenseless victims, put up full security screening at every entrance to every building.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Award88 And what about those over 21 in the dorm?  You are denying them the possession of the gun even when they are of legal age to carry based on a maybe. 


If we "need" legal carry, it should be EVERYWHERE, including the legislative, judicial, and executive state offices!

GA Educator
GA Educator

This is the conversation I've had with my colleagues for weeks now, professor. You are not alone in your worry. The statistics I've looked (for my campus) show that majority of crimes are committed in dorm rooms, fraternity houses, and surrounding areas--not inside our classrooms. 

givemeglenn
givemeglenn

@AJCsports Why are they also allowed in College Classrooms but not the property of the Georgia State Legislature? Hypocrites.

Award88
Award88

@givemeglenn @AJCsports they are not allowed in the Georgia State Legislature because they have full security screening. Any public college would be able to opt out of allowing campus carry, the building just has to be secured with full security screening, just like the Capital building.

redweather
redweather

Thank you, professor, but I'm sure your appeal will fall in deaf ears. Just as I'm sure some of the comments posted here will be directed at you rather than at the issue.

Wrecker
Wrecker

@redweather I want to thank her as well for considering leaving our university system.  Her comments cause me to wonder whether she is competent to teach our children.  If she is so scared of her students, believing them to be homicidal maniacs, maybe she should reconsider her career choice.

crwatl
crwatl

@Wrecker Yeah, who needs teachers right?  Our society needs less education - sure.

quaterhorselady
quaterhorselady

Common sense is never comprehended by the irrational.