But hey are mixed in their support of a “campus carry” law.
State Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell) is an opponent. He said a bill that didn’t make it last year would have allowed students to carry guns on campus, but not in dormitories.
“So basically, they would be allowed to walk around campus and have to leave them in their car, which I don’t know if I want to see someone put a gun in their car and then someone come by and rob it,” Wilkerson said.
Another part of the bill would have allowed local school boards to designate a particular school employee — a nurse or custodian — for example, to carry a gun in a kindergarten through 12th grade school.
“If we have a concern about safety, I’d rather a trained professional be inside the building, because what you’re talking about is a teacher who then has to make a decision whether to go out and try to apprehend somebody or they stay and protect the students they are responsible for,” Wilkerson said. “Personally, I’d rather them protect the students they are responsible for and get them out of harm’s way if there is harm in the building.”
Wilkerson said he’s not met a teacher or principal who favors the idea of allowing anyone other than a police officer to carry guns on public school grounds.
State Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-west Cobb), a former chairman of the Cobb Board of Education, doesn’t believe the K-12 part of the bill will be considered this session, which began Monday.
But he does believe action will be taken on a campus carry law. Tippins said allowing college students to arm themselves could prevent crime.
“If you’re old enough to have a pistol permit, I personally don’t have a problem with it,” Tippins said. “I realize anything can be abused, but we’ve had some campuses where we’ve had a good bit of crime, and I think if people know that students could be armed it may be a deterrent. Some of this street crime we’ve seen with a lot of students going back to the dorms at 10, 11, 12 at night, a lot of them have been robbed. It was quite common down in Atlanta last year.”
State Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Smyrna) said there are enough people in support of a campus carry bill and enough opposed to see the matter brought back up for action this year.
“It is going to have to be addressed because there are too many people on both sides to ignore it,” Hill said.
But Hill, an Army veteran who’s seen combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, has concerns about the kind of regulatory burdens allowing guns on campus would put on university staff. In the military, for example, there are various statuses of a weapon.
“Are you locked and clear? Are you locked and not loaded or are you locked and loaded? The reason we have all those regulations is to make sure accidents don’t happen,” he said.
These are the kinds of decisions university presidents would face if a law was passed to allow guns on campus. Yet while it’s simpler to keep the gun ban in place, Hill said it is worth considering some revisions to the law for the same reason that Tippins brought up.
“Because on some of our college campuses, it’s potentially not safe for our students,” Hill said. “I’m just not sure that us in the Legislature deciding that they can carry is the right answer because there are so many nuances, and we need to proceed with caution on this one and make sure, whatever we decide, that it’s been blessed by the Board of Regents who live and breathe every day dealing with our children, basically young adults being educated, and we need to make sure we proceed with caution.”
Kerwin Swint, a political science professor at Kennesaw State University, says most of the university professors, staff and administrators he’s come across think a campus carry law is a terrible idea.
“There are instances on campus, frequently there are disagreements on campus, there is occasionally parties, alcohol involved in dorms at least, properties near campus, it just seems like a combustible mix and not well advised,” Swint said.
Swint is also convinced the Legislature will decide on this issue this session.
“In Georgia, gun ownership is a big deal, and that’s a potent political issue, and so gun rights groups have a lot of influence, that’s pretty clear,” Swint said. “It’s just that the Legislature has to be satisfied putting guns on college campuses, is that going to be a horrible idea, and in my opinion at least that has the potential to be a horrible idea.”