As of today’s date, the “campus carry” bill has already passed the house and senate in Georgia and has been sent to the Governor for his signature. If the bill becomes law, it will allow students who are 21 or older to carry a concealed weapon on the campuses of state colleges and universities. Although I have many concerns about students carrying handguns around campus, I do understand the circumstances and fears that led to the push for such legislation. One of my major concerns is the rhetoric that always seems to surround issues and legislation about weapons in Georgia and around the country. For instance, when asked why he was supporting this particular bill, a Georgia state legislator purportedly said, “In general, the only people laws affect are those who obey the law. What we put into law is not going to have any impact on criminals.”
I actually have respect for this legislator, although we are not in the same political camp. This statement no doubt expresses his philosophy and that of many of his constituents where this bill is concerned. But, is this how we are to regard legislation and laws in our state in general? If so, then why should the state ever pass any law prohibiting any activity ever again. Why have laws that prohibit the sale of cocaine or more lethal drugs if the only people such laws affect are those who wouldn’t use the substance in the first place? Why have laws against aggravated assault if such laws are only obeyed by nonviolent people. Why have traffic laws or speed limits?
Indeed, why have laws that prevent people from carrying guns into the state capitol? I suspect these particular laws will remain because the state will make sure it has the law enforcement presence and power to enforce them. But securing a college campus with law enforcement officers is much more expensive than securing a few state government buildings, right?
I truly do sympathize with parents of students and the students themselves where campus violence has escalated, especially at places like Georgia Tech. I’m just not yet convinced that encouraging students to arm themselves is the answer. Incidentally, if the law only allows students 21 and older to carry, then how does this law protect the other 50-75% of students on the campus who will not be able to carry legally? Have violent crimes only been committed against college students who are over the age of 21?
I fear that when elected officials admit that civility can no longer be maintained by laws, then we have basically given the masses permission to take law enforcement into their own hands. And, I fear that arming college students sends that message loudly and clearly to young people during a very impressionable period of their lives. I just hope that Georgians, and Americans for that matter, are not moving toward a paradigm of abandoning the role of law enforcement to serve and protect and moving toward a society where self-defense becomes the expectation rather than the act of last resort.