Lawmakers depict campuses as dangerous and in need of guns. Crime reports show otherwise.

Nationwide, students are protesting campaigns to open college campuses to firearms. (AJC file)

I continue to be amazed by the exaggeration of crime on our public colleges and universities by state lawmakers trying once again to overrule common sense  and University System policy by forcing guns on Georgia’s campuses.

Listening to the wild commentary by campus carry  advocates about crime threats and predatory professors, you’d think lawmakers never visited an actual college campus but formed their views after binge-watching  “Scream 2” and “Sorority Row.”

I just spent several days in Athens and saw two obvious areas where legislators could improve campus safety if they were serious about it and not just seeking to win points with the gun lobby: Figure out a way to slow down the cars and pickup trucks careening around Broad Street and stop the underage drinking.

Matthew Boedy, an assistant professor of rhetoric and composition at the University of North Georgia, addresses the new scheme by the Georgia House to resurrect the campus carry bill.  Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a “campus carry” gun bill in May, saying it would not improve campus safety.

Neither will this new version, House Bill 280.

Boedy looks at the outcome of the “campus carry lite” bill enacted last year legalizing stun guns and Tasers on campuses. Surely, if crime was as rampant as gun proponents contend, those new defensive weapons would have been put into action. Boedy requested official records to find out.

Here is what he found:

By Matthew Boedy

This week University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley made his case to a House committee concerning this year’s version of “campus carry,” House Bill 280. In being against the bill, he highlighted the safety measures Georgia’s public higher education institutions have implemented since 2015.

The list was impressive and should be important to those GOP House members who overwhelmingly passed this bill in previous years. It most likely won’t be.

But there is a safety measure GOP legislators do find important: what many call “campus carry lite.” Put into law July 1 after overwhelming support from the GOP-led House and Senate, this law allows stun guns and Tasers to be carried anywhere on the campuses of Georgia’s public colleges and universities by those 18 or older. The law allows students under 18 to carry these weapons if they are enrolled in classes. It was called “lite” because it was seen as a compromise between those who fervently fought the introduction of guns to campuses like myself and those who wanted them. [If the 2017 campus carry bill shows anything, it seems the compromise was not good enough for the latter.]

In July a few media outlets did stories about the upsurge or predicted upsurge in sales of stun gunsfathers buying for daughters, particularly for the more urban campuses. Campuses are just not safe, they said.

One would think with the campus “crime wave” that drove the debate and all the weapons bought, there would now be many instances of people using them.

Through the state’s open records law, I asked for reports since July 1 (I asked for reports up to Feb. 17) of any use of electroshock weapons on my campus, the University of North Georgia (with its five campuses in Gainesville, Dahlonega, Cumming, Oconee and Blue Ridge), and University of Georgia, Kennesaw State, Georgia Tech, and Georgia State.

Campus police reported zero instances of defensive use. Not a single one.

Thank God for that and hopefully that pattern will continue. And yes, perhaps some people have used these weapons, scaring away would-be assailants and didn’t report the incident.

On the other hand, a few UGA students reported something more concerning. On Sept. 17, a group of four female students reported to campus police that a man in a red shirt chased them with a Taser near a dorm, using it “in an aggressive manner in an attempt to assault students,” according to the report. Police searched the area but did not find the suspect. This incident undermines the repeated pro-campus carry argument that concealed weapon owners are always law-abiding.

The lack of self-defense reports should make “campus carry” supporters pause before trying to make us afraid, again.

Despite the fact that college campuses are some of the safest places in our state, the need for electroshock weapons was based in the same mistaken rhetoric as the need for guns: to stop the rise in campus or near-campus crime. And this rhetoric is getting more extreme, more based in fear. This year’s main sponsor of the “campus carry” bill, Rep. Mandi Ballinger, R-Canton, claimed that guns were needed on campus because of “at times some college professors made unwanted advances toward female students.” [That insulting comment almost deserves no response. But here is one: why not stun guns?]

This same fear argues shooters are attracted by “gun free zones.” This just isn’t accurate. According to the gun violence research group The Trace, research shows “no evidence that mass killers select locations based on gun policy.”

And the fear-based theory that we need more “good guys” with guns to stop the high quantity of “bad ones?” A FBI study of active-shooter incidents from 2000 to 2013 found that in 160 incidents, just one ended with an armed citizen exchanging gunfire with an attacker. Twenty-one incidents were stopped by unarmed citizens. And a new report found that sexual assaults on campuses where concealed handguns are permitted rose after the implementation of the law.

Despite pleas from moms who lost children to guns, students who oppose “campus carry” to the point of 70 percent at Georgia Tech, faculty who came out in droves last year to defeat the measure, and the USG chancellor backed by every campus police chief – despite all this, it is almost certain the House will pass this bill. Again.

Senators, don’t let fear propel guns onto campuses. And if the bill gets to you, Gov. Deal, don’t back off your veto from last year. Don’t be tempted by the new exemption for child care centers. This year’s version is based in the same misguided logic. Stick to the philosophy you laid out – for centuries colleges have been sanctuaries of learning.

I teach at one. Here we don’t prey on students. We teach them, guide them, dare I say, educate them. To divide fear from fact. And we are protected by some great police. The rest of Georgia, you too are against this measure. A majority didn’t even think it was worth debating again, after the battle in 2016, according to a poll in this newspaper. Yet here we are again. Let’s not give into fear this time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments 2

17 comments
Tim Langan
Tim Langan

I have mixed feelings on this. The current scenario though is the government denying law abiding, licensed gun owners a right to carry the weapon they are allowed to carry 2 ft off campus.

Ralph-43
Ralph-43

Know the DATA.Gun owners are statistically, significantly more likely to commit murder, twice as likely to be murdered and 3 times as likely to commit suicide (Univ Penn LDI Issue Brief 2003;8(8), 1-4; Ann Int Med, Jan, 2014).Those who are shot and survive are 21 times more likely to be shot again and 5 times more likely to die than those wounded by some weapon other than a gun or injured in an accident (Ann Int Med, April, 2015).States with high gun ownership (Montana, Arkansas, Alabama and Idaho) kill law enforcement officers 3 times more often than states with low gun ownership (Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey) (American Journal of Public Health, 2015).

EliasDenny
EliasDenny

@Ralph-43 Statistics don't really matter to the gun nuts in the state assembly.

Spinoza
Spinoza

@Starik @EliasDenny @Ralph-43 I teach in this system and I am hardly comfortable with the presence of students with concealed weapons in my classroom and library.

How can you be comfortable with young people who are not required to have any training at all carrying concealed weapons into a classroom?

tinala
tinala

College Campuses don't need student's carrying guns. When Biff and Todd gets drunk at the frat house and try to prove who more manly and kill each other, that law will change. Employ more officer's on college campus who are trained and know how to handle criminals and criminal elements. No to Guns on College Campus and majority of the student's don't want guns.

Ralph-43
Ralph-43

If there is any danger it is because of these irresponsible N.R.A. tools - 'Guns Everywhere'.  Review the donations to your reps and withhold your vote from any tool.

The Doom
The Doom

This reminds me of a column Jay Bookman wrote next door a couple years ago about the new GA open carry gun law. Jay and the progs screamed aloud about the sure to come bloodbath with a law that would have allowed guns in bars of all places. They screamed all the day long about how shootings and murders via gun violence would escalate. So what happened??? Pretty much nothing. It became law and there was no corresponding bloodbath or surge in bar shootings. If anything I think the murder and violent crime rate dropped.  


Progs never did let the facts get in the way of their emotion laden arguments. 

Spinoza
Spinoza

@The Doom The law has been in effect for less than two years and if you exam state by state comparisons presented in peer reviewed studies you will see that there is indeed more gun violence when those laws are in place. 

Second, college campuses are very different places from bars. We already have campus police who are trained and there is no need to change. So spare us your factual claims and "progs" BS and repair your ignorance with some actual reading.

Erbonn
Erbonn

Its not so much a self-defense issue as it is a liberty or freedom issue.  In general, the government should not restrict Second Amendment freedoms on public property.  That aside, there is seldom a week going by that we do not see in the AJC that either a GA. Tech or GA. State student being robbed at gun point.  Obviously the bad guys do not obey the laws, so why shouldn't the law abiding be able to defend themselves?

Spinoza
Spinoza

@Erbonn Several reasons in regards to your last question.  Campus police, who are trained in the use of guns, know their campuses intimately have made them among the safest public places in our society.  There is no "crime wave" and research has shown that possession of guns on campuses has actually increased dangers not reduced them with accidents and the impulsive behavior of armed students.

As far as the second amendment goes you might try reading the Governor's veto from last year which cites the Heller decision. Scalia who wrote the majority opinion stated that is a right that is not without constraint and suggested that schools and government buildings are two places where regulations might be appropriate. So there is no conflict whatsoever with that interpretation and restricting guns on campus. 

The belief that untrained students are necessary to protect our campuses is groundless and fails to fit the fact.

independentiii
independentiii

@Erbonn 

not everyone believes the second amendment gives people the 'right' to carry a gun anywhere they want.  Even the late Scalia.

Just because the NRA says it, doesn't make it true.


NRA membership is less than 5% of Americans, which hardly makes them any kind of spokesman for Americans.

HowdyJune
HowdyJune

Good comment! I often think of Virginia Tech and what could have been an even greater tragedy if students had been "carrying" and the campus police had been trying to identify and separate the "good guys" from the "bad guys".

Spinoza
Spinoza

@HowdyJune Thanks.  It is sometimes argued that those looking to commit mass shootings will target a campus because it is a "gun free zone."  That is false on both counts. We have armed campus police and the handful of mass shootings, including the worst at Virginia Tech involved students, no outsiders. 

independentiii
independentiii

"you’d think lawmakers never visited an actual college campus"


Well, obviously, many of them never have.

They make up unneeded laws based on non-factual right wing media reports, such as NRA, and a$$-u-me that guns are what are needed.  As the article factually points out, just the opposite is true.

 The lawmakers reasoning would clearly lead to pointing out that the state legislature is very dangerous, and open carry there is required to protect the rights of citizens.   Maybe that should be their agenda, rather than guns on campus.

Spinoza
Spinoza

@independentiii Correct.  And I am reminded of how the right squealed so loudly about the Affordable Health Care Act being "rammed down their throats."  Here we have a situation where the Chancellor, the Board of Regents, the presidents of every single college in the system, every public safety director, the overwhelming majority of administrators, faculty, staff, and students and the majority of the public are opposed to this law. 

Never mind. These people just do the bidding of the organization that they really represent, the despicable NRA, not the citizens of this state. 

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