By Celia Murray
Will Gov. Deal and the Georgia legislature follow the will of the people of this state, or will they continue to cater the far right fringes of their party?
At issue is a proposal that would make it legal for students to possess and carry firearms on college campuses.
The GOP-controlled state house wants to tout Georgia as one of the most gun-friendly states in the union, and they are making a passage of a sweeping gun bill a priority of this year’s session.
The bill would undo the current ban of guns from the state’s college campuses and church sanctuaries. What do Georgian’s think? The AJC commissioned an independent poll conducted earlier this month that sampled opinions from every part of the state and every demographic group.
The poll found that 78 percent of Georgians oppose legalizing weapon possession on college campuses. Republican voters oppose it by a margin of three to one. And 82 percent would require any gun owner who wanted to carry a weapon in public to first take a safety course.
Those numbers stayed relatively consistent among rural and urban residents and among conservative, independent and liberal voters. But will the governor and legislature listen to their constituents?
It appears not.
The AJC’s Jay Bookman quotes House Speaker David Ralston as saying, “This is about making sure we do everything possible to protect and expand rights of Georgians under the Second Amendment. We are not going to back down on that.
If a college student is otherwise by law entitled to carry a firearm, the best question is should they yield that constitutional right when they go on a college campus?” Or, as State House Republican leader Matt Ramsey more bluntly put it, the lawmakers can’t be expected to set policy based on polling data.
This is not a constitutional issue – the United States Supreme Court has already ruled on it. In its landmark Heller decision, the Court, in an opinion written by the ultra-conservative Antonin Scalia, explicitly addressed this very issue: “The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings …”
Common sense tells us allowing guns on college campuses is a very, very bad idea. As Jay Bookman pointed it, guns simply should not be thrown into the volatile mix of college anxiety, young people away from home, hormones, alcohol and a host of other stressors. It would be a disaster waiting to happen.
If the governor and the legislature think everyone carrying guns is such a good idea, then I’m sure they are now removing the metal detectors and screeners from the entrances to the capitol building. Or do they believe their safety is more important than the safety of those on college campuses?
Of course not, but, to quote Bookman, “when a measure opposed by voters by almost a four-to-one ratio nonetheless becomes a priority for passage, it tells you a lot about how distorted and even perverted the gun-safety discussion has become.” Celia Murray is a member of the Morgan County Democratic Committee.