Students are increasingly speaking out against the campus carry bill, which passed both the House and Senate and now is in the hands of Gov. Nathan Deal.
Deal is facing tremendous pressure from the gun lobby to sign House Bill 859, but he risks the ire of parents and students who believe legalizing guns on campuses is a mistake. I attended a Leadership DeKalb education program yesterday where dual-enrolled high school students from DeKalb Early College Academy said they opposed guns on the Georgia State University campus where they take classes.
Deal himself has expressed concerns about the high school students who attend college under state acceleration programs. The real possibility parents will be fearful about sending their 16-year-olds to classes with armed college classmates was first raised by local college instructor Rick Diguette in a Get Schooled blog piece last month. Go back and read his column if you missed it.
Now comes a student-written editorial on the front page of the University of Georgia independent student-run newspaper, the Red & Black:
Here is an excerpt of UGA student’s Daniel Funke editorial on behalf of the editorial board of the Red & Black:
According to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll, only 20 percent of people agree with permitting guns on college campuses. Among dissenters, virtually nobody who is actually involved in higher education wants firearms on campus. On Wednesday, University of Georgia students, professors and Athens community members held a march and protest against HB 859 at Tate Plaza and the Arch.
According to an online poll conducted by The Red & Black, approximately 62 percent of UGA students disapprove of campus carry — but the opposition doesn’t stop at students. In a rare public statement released March 2, UGA President Jere Morehead voiced his opposition to the bill by supporting Hank Huckaby, the chancellor of the University System of Georgia, who testified in the Senate against HB 859.
The message to state lawmakers is clear: Almost no one wants guns on Georgia college campuses.
Passing legislation that affects students, professors and administrators without their support is not only politically stupid — it’s morally reprehensible. Georgians elect officials to represent their interests and act on their behalf. By ignoring the opinions of the higher education community and passing campus carry, state representatives have foregone the tenets of democracy, opting instead for a government that legislates beyond the people. For a party that totes the merits of small government, it’s ironic that state Republicans would support a measure that is essentially a unilateral decree.
For some students, it’s painfully obvious why gun rights are so popular. Georgia is traditionally a deep red state, where Republicans are more common than Baptist churches or two-lane highways. But campus carry doesn’t only amass support from radical conservative ideologues from rural areas. Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) represents UGA students and Athens citizens alike, yet he voted in favor of HB 859 last Friday, thereby helping to pass the bill. Rep. Regina Quick (R-Athens) also voted in favor of the legislation in the House — despite the fact that 71 percent of North Georgia opposes it, according to the AJC poll.
These people aren’t just figureheads — they’re representing Georgians. They’re creating and voting on legislation that could govern the way we live our lives. And they’re failing us.