“We should never allow overlapping boundaries to deny us of our constitutional rights” Casey Cagle, the Lieutenant Governor of Georgia, claims. His insistence on preserving constitutional rights is in reference to House Bill 280 which, for the fifth year in a row, has made headlines in Georgia newspapers. The bill argues that students with a concealed carry permit should be allowed to carry firearms on campuses. However, because of Governor Deal’s veto of the bill the year prior, legislators have added restrictions to the proposed law. For example, firearms under the policy would continue to be illegal on college dormitories, fraternities, sororities, and child care centers on campus. Yet despite the changes, the bill has proved divisive for Georgians.
Supporters of the bill argue that concealed firearms allow students to protect themselves without interfering with other students’ learning. They cite stories of those like Alex Shannon, a student at a Georgia university who owns a concealed firearm. “But when I cross that imaginary line,” Shannon says (referencing his college’s boundaries), “I’m suddenly too dangerous to protect myself with a gun.” There is also the argument to be made about the rise in campus shootings. It seems reasonable to believe that the chances of a mass shooting occurring on campus would diminish with an increase of students with concealed firearms. After all, those who would have a right to carry a firearm on campus under the law would have to be at least 21, pass multiple background checks and be fingerprinted. But, these arguments begin to fray when the proposed policies are put into practical use.
Georgia is one of 17 states who still do not support firearms on campus. Thus, lawmakers have data from 33 other states to see what effects a campus carry policy has on the student body. A study at Johns Hopkins University, in particular, caught the eye of many. Released by the Bloomberg School of Public Health, the study found that increasing firearms on campus would likely lead to more shootings, killings and suicides. If college campuses lock the windows on high story buildings during finals week – a policy that has been used in recent years to prevent suicides- imagine what impact a surge in gun use could have on colleges. In fact, 64 percent of gun deaths in the United States have been the result of suicide alone. There is also the practical argument to be made about the bill. For example, if guns are not permitted inside school dormitories, but are allowed on campus, where are students like Alex Shannon supposed to store their firearms? Because of threats to student safety and impracticalities in the bill, a campus carry policy would cause more harm than what it could possibly prevent.