Campus carry in Georgia: Effects of guns may be concealed but they are damaging

Multiple protests and parent concerns were not enough to persuade the governor to veto campus carry. TAYLOR.CARPENTER/AJC

Many professors on Georgia’s public campuses opposed campus carry; few were as willing as Matthew Boedy to take a public stand and spend time researching the issue.

An assistant professor at the University of North Georgia, Boedy investigated the impact of campus carry lite,  a law enacted in Georgia last year legalizing stun guns and Tasers on campuses. He found no reported instances of defensive use.

He also looked here and here on how campus carry was working elsewhere in the country. In one such state, Utah, Boedy asked campus police chiefs from the two largest universities for reports from 2004 to 2016 of a victim using a firearm to stop a crime in progress. Neither university had a single example.

Despite polls showing the majority of parents opposed guns on their children’s public campuses, Gov. Nathan Deal signed the law making campus carry legal in Georgia as of July 1.

Boedy gives us a sense of how the new law is affecting him and his students.

By Matthew Boedy

Everyone wants to know how “campus carry” is affecting me and my students. Am I wearing a bulletproof vest like a professor in Kansas? No.

Am I seeing guns in illegal places? No. And neither are others, according to the AJC.

And with this lack, many argue guns on campus are not a problem.

But there are damaging effects on me and my students. Effects as concealed for the moment like the guns.

Matthew Boedy

One effect can be described with a phrase from an essay I have my freshman English students reading and writing about – an essay written by a fellow English professor, Richard Miller, as he ruminates on the changes in education after Columbine. In response to this “new normal,” Miller wonders about the “felt experience of the impersonal” that defines higher education. He writes that “the hierarchical, exclusionary environment” of education “fosters feelings of rage and helplessness that cannot be contained.”

The rage by mainly young, white men at the fear of being replaced which echoed through the University of Virginia is just one example of this.

But it is not just at elite institutions like UVA. At the state regional university level, where I work, we have students from small towns where some whisper a college degree is not worth it or not needed. Yet some of these students, tasting all the promise that a college degree offers, also believe they are being left behind by an educational system and nation that promotes others before them. And the experience of that loss – the feeling of that annulment of a common good, shared by all – has produced fear and anger.

It is the same fear that suggests we need guns on campuses because there were already guns – guns in the hands of those who do harm. This is a claim with no evidence. Yet the “fake news” remains because those who believe that myth also believe higher education is about individual success, always competing with another individual.

This is why I have my students read Miller’s essay. We are producing graduates, awarding degrees, but Miller (and I) wonder about the kind of education we are practicing.

One important effect of “campus carry” is that it further encourages us all to see education as an impersonal and therefore individualistic affair.

A business transaction for a business degree. A series of negotiations over work and effort for an education degree. And in the end, skills and competencies for a job market that will either crush or recruit them.

There is a connection between how we define education and the desire to have guns on campus. If freedom is protecting what’s mine, then education is getting what’s mine. And if either is threatened, then guns are the answer.

And I feel that dogma more now that there are actual guns.

But I can only feel it because I can’t see them, the guns concealed, hidden under coats or in bags.

Do I think about the guns around me daily? No. And in that, the gun rights advocates have won. They want us to see guns as part of the day-to-day life of a student, equal to the pencils and paper they also carry.

But that is another myth. Students use paper and pencils to become more aware of what they don’t know. They use them to become more human.

Guns are an obstacle to education as a humanizing activity. They are the most effective way to depersonalize the student-teacher relationship. If, as Miller argues, educational institutions are charged with “nurturing [in students] both a sense of self and a sense of connection between self and society,” guns on campus teach the first but not the second. In education defined by guns, guns inhibit a connection to the world by positioning the gun as between the world and its owners.

Luckily, there is no one over 21 in my Freshman English classes. So no guns. But most of my sophomore English major class are eligible for a concealed carry permit.

I am teaching memoirs to this group so they can inhabit the skills of genre, a needed dexterity in the writing they will do as professionals. We are reading authors morally reckon with themselves and with how they were educated. And my students will write their own memoirs. They will have to wrestle with how they have been affected by the design flaws in our education system.

Do I fear a student will write something about me or another professor and place us in the crosshairs? No. But that is the path the gun lobby wants me to go down. That’s why we need “good guys” with guns, to paraphrase the NRA. Only they can protect us from those bring their guns, no matter the laws, to do harm.

If I accept this thinking, my office door would be closed all the time. It is open now and will remain open. It must.

Miller does not wonder about a divide between good and bad students. Instead he argues that while we “internalize institutional influences” differently, the “utterly mysterious” effects are also “utterly predictable.” Miller asks in our sad era of impersonal education why we all don’t become school shooters. I wonder at a less dramatic question in the same educational context: why don’t we all carry guns on campus?

Can we stem this tide? Or better, is there any encouraging signs from guns on campus?

When I announced on the first day to the sophomore English class that no one should bring their guns into my office, they all chuckled. They laughed because they understood like me the absurdity of that action. They appreciate why guns and education don’t mix – if indeed education is a personal affair, a relationship between teacher and student where each comes to be something different, something more human, in the interaction.

While the university system says I can’t discourage anyone from following the law and so then literally can’t say to students, “please don’t bring your guns to campus,” my memoir course is doing just that, if the early writings of the sophomores are any indication. They understand more clearer what education should be now that there are guns on campus. And maybe the freshmen will get there, too. If I can just get them to do the reading.

Reader Comments 0

84 comments
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Tim Hotle
Tim Hotle

Bad guys knowing that someone MIGHT be carrying a gun is very useful to the entire society.

Gunluvr
Gunluvr

Who cares? Don't like it, move to one of the gun control outlands like California, NYC or Chicago. My gun rights come first and I'm not giving them up.

Georgia Bailey
Georgia Bailey

Just to point something out here. The yellow sign is completely wrong. Stopping free speech is what kills discussions. You know, the free speech that the indoctrination system is saying can't be tolerated? Yeah that free speech where you hear opposing ideas and things you may disagree with. Killing free speech is what kills discussions.

CarNella BoJc Robinson
CarNella BoJc Robinson

“A 10-year study of brain development by the National Institute of Mental Health showed that the parts of the brain that control high-level functions such as problem-solving are among the last to achieve full functionality. Areas with more advanced functions – integrating information from the senses, reasoning, and other “executive” functions (prefrontal cortex) – mature last.” Source : Aspen Education. With emerging science about brain development, suggesting that most people don't reach full maturity until the age 25, Georgia just gave full gun rights to a group of “children”, who can have an uncontrollable tantrum at any moment and shoot someone. Oh, if we add the element of drug usage, we just entered a chamber of unimaginable horrors.

Joseph Schriefer
Joseph Schriefer

Too bad we have empirical evidence that shows GWL holders are over 5 times more responsible and law abiding than the general population. By your logic, we shouldn't let these...lol "children" lol drive cars, join the military etc... No wonder your side keeps losing on this issue

CarNella BoJc Robinson
CarNella BoJc Robinson

All repartee and insults aside , thank you for making the start of my Saturday one of inspiration and hope that the people on fb are not Meth mangled, mental morons. I must close out. The day is calling. I just might request a friendship. Have a safe and blessed week.

CarNella BoJc Robinson
CarNella BoJc Robinson

Years of overwhelming statistics inspire legislators and safety advocates across the country to question whether 16-year-olds are mature enough to obtain a driver’s license, the age of sexual consent is 16, the voting age in GA is 18 and alcohol purchases at 21. Try reading and researching before you comment. Your racism is showing.

Joseph Schriefer
Joseph Schriefer

CarNella BoJc Robinson yes, years of overwhelming statistics prove my point thoroughly. Try reading and researching before you comment, assuming you can given your intelligence is so low you decided to label someone as racist when race was never mentioned anywhere \U0001f602 How embarrassed you are

CarNella BoJc Robinson
CarNella BoJc Robinson

Schriefer, you are a Russian Hacker or a racist Trump bot. We are removing you and your traitorous thugs from our country ,along with Trump/Drumpf, that sadistic, pathological lying, paranoid, democracy destructive, egocentric, adulterous, misogynistic, tax cheating , Malignant Narcissist. Both of you will be deported back to Hitler’s north Germany.

Joseph Schriefer
Joseph Schriefer

CarNella BoJc Robinson aww, you gonna cry because your stance is so easily defeated? You are so imbecilic that you can't even stay on topic and have to resort to prepubescent insults in a desperate attempt to convince yourself you have something valid to offer. There is a reason American society shuns people like you. Care to embarrass yourself further?

CarNella BoJc Robinson
CarNella BoJc Robinson

Oooh,"prepubescent" is a word of advanced intelligence and academic achievement. Or… did you just complete your morning, court ordered Chlorpromazine drip laced testosterone?

Joseph Schriefer
Joseph Schriefer

The saddest part is you're not even intelligent enough to realize that every time you post, you just keep substantiating my claims. Keep it up, sir, we in American advanced society are amused by your fatuity.

Daniel Shayder
Daniel Shayder

I keep a spare tire in the back of my car just in case. My handgun serves the same purpose as the spare tire.

Jack Stossel
Jack Stossel

You stupid idiots, until the shooter comes and points a gun at you!

Christopher Channell
Christopher Channell

Another example of a liberal professor thinking his opinion should outweigh rights.

Larry Papetti
Larry Papetti

I wonder how many doctoral defenses will become Mexican standoffs.

Paige Huggins
Paige Huggins

Why would you think that because your class is under 21 that might not be done there who has a gun? Criminals don't usually follow the law.

Bill Snapp
Bill Snapp

I read this article and it is so much more the problem with today's modern college education than the solution. This wimp of a professor fears, well everything, but he keenly fears that education is becoming "individualistic" is nothing short of absurd. If I remember correctly no one did my term papers for me or took my exams for me when I went through. Also according to the professor, campus carry laws now somehow fill students with "rage" although no one sees anyone carry they know they are there and are angry about it. The premise of this article is so colossally stupid it is difficult to intelligently address. Everywhere else in GA we have concealed carry laws and I don't see people whining about "feeling individualistic" and "filled with rage" because of it. Todays students need to grow a spine if they want to compete in todays world and quit whining about the imaginary things that bother them.

Rick Simpson
Rick Simpson

But it didn't bother the snowflakes that un-licensed people were carrying concealed weapons on campus before this law went into affect? Liberal logic.

John R Bloxson Jr
John R Bloxson Jr

Poor snow flakes get real step into the real world and stop saying in your dream world fantasy's.

Janice McMahan
Janice McMahan

Too bad...now students are SAFE !!!! Get real !!

Nathan Swenson
Nathan Swenson

Steven Edward Aanes do you teach with this yutz?

Nathan Swenson
Nathan Swenson

Steven Edward Aanes wouldn't think you guys would be in the same circles. He needs to be working at Emory or Berkeley with that nonsense.

Paula Collins
Paula Collins

Professors are usually liberal flake heads who have never held a job in the real world!

Rhonda Chambers
Rhonda Chambers

Your response is why guns should not be allowed on all persons!

Joseph Schriefer
Joseph Schriefer

Rhonda Chambers your response, proving the irrationality and lack of intellect of anti-gunners, is exactly why the pro-firearm, pro common sense crowd are always winning

Kevin McFelia
Kevin McFelia

No guns means open season for crime and terrorists

Sheva Bree
Sheva Bree

Just curious if you read the article. The writer says he asked schools in states that already have campus carry if they had any reports of someone stopping a crime by being a 'good guy with a gun'. There were none.

Joseph Schriefer
Joseph Schriefer

Sheva Bree which would mean the threat of someone being able to defend themselves seems to be working.... #criticalthinking

Tim Langan
Tim Langan

Licensed gun owners don't have me nervous. The vast majority of gun assaults don't come from legal gun owners. I feel no different on campuses (and I'm not a gun owner). If we think 18-22 year olds inherently cannot be responsible enough to have their right to bear arms, we should not be allowed to draft them.

Holly Roesch
Holly Roesch

I just moved up here from Florida and see everyone open carrying and I have never felt more safe in my life. We were just at Jeep fest and I saw hundreds of guns yet not one single incident. I'll take that over not feeling safe in Florida any day.

Rhonda Chambers
Rhonda Chambers

WTF just be happy no one was having a bad day!\U0001f479

Brian Willis
Brian Willis

Rhonda Chambers just be happy that if someone was, you would have hundreds that would eliminate him from the face of this earth before he did a lot or carnage. Or your solution would be to wait until the police got their to clean up the mess and do a body count or you could give the gunman a hug and he would magically drop his weapon. Only in a democrats head does this make and sense.

David Martin
David Martin

Only people who do not want others to own and carry are thugs and thugs supportors !

Peter Walsh
Peter Walsh

Why do anti gun advocates always think people are one bad day away from shooting each other? Is it because they themselves are unstable?

Guye Winfield
Guye Winfield

hmmmit looks like we are returning to the 1870s

D'Angelo Manning
D'Angelo Manning

Someone bumps into ya,shoot em Someone gets into an argument,shoot em.

Joseph Schriefer
Joseph Schriefer

Fortunately people who have a GWL are much more rational than you

D'Angelo Manning
D'Angelo Manning

Joseph Schriefer you sure about that? Cops have em,explain why they shoot unarmed people.

Chris Henderson
Chris Henderson

That is plain fear mongering. Why are you scared of gun? It takes a gun in a good guys hand to save lives from a bad guy with a gun ( who isn't permitted) Stop being timid.

D'Angelo Manning
D'Angelo Manning

Oh yea,I don't have a carry permit,but I own a few firearms and never even had to pull it out,I can name 10 right off top of my head of "timid" punks pulling for the stupidest reason.

Joseph Schriefer
Joseph Schriefer

D'Angelo Manning because those people are threatening officers