Gov. Nathan Deal says he still doesn't know what he'll do about House Bill 859, the bill awaiting his signature or veto that would allow concealed weapons to be carried on college campuses in Georgia. And maybe he truly doesn't.
However, by now he knows what he ought to do. He ought to veto it.
In fact, he has all but said so himself. As he pointed out last month in urging the Legislature to withdraw and amend the bill, HB 859 as passed allows guns to be carried not just into college classrooms but also into college disciplinary hearings and college administrative and faculty offices. It also allows them to be carried into campus day-care centers, and it gives campus officials no discretion to override or adjust the law to the needs of their campus.
Think about that. If you’re a college professor and an armed student marches into your office, demanding a changed grade, the law would give you no recourse or grounds to object. In fact, given the air of political intimidation surrounding this issue, it would probably be the complaining professor who would be disciplined in that scenario, not the armed student.
Would we allow that scenario to play out in any other setting, such at a private workplace? Would legislators, for example, be comfortable allowing a disgruntled constituent to show up armed at their office to complain? Most would not. A few might brag that it wouldn't bother them, because they would have a handgun of their own should the situation demand, but that doesn't seem a firm basis on which to base a civilization.
Let’s also look at it another way:
On Tuesday, a three-year-old toddler was accidentally shot and killed with a firearm in Paulding County. That same day in Henry County, a man shot and killed his wife and their six-year-old son, then killed himself.
Last month, a two-year-old in DeKalb County found a pistol in his mother’s purse and accidentally shot himself. In Gwinnett last month, a 12-year-old boy playing with a gun shot and killed himself. In another Gwinnett incident last month, a six-year-old was accidentally shot by a playmate at a neighborhood block party, but survived.
In January, a two-year-old from LaGrange was shot with her mother’s pistol. A Gwinnett County man that month shot and killed his two-year-old son, then killed himself. And in DeKalb that month, a 16-year-old accidentally shot and killed a 15-year-old friend with a gun they had been playing with.
In November, a two-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed himself in Acworth. Another was accidentally shot and killed in Butts County that month. In October, a two-year old in Cobb County shot and killed himself with his father’s pistol, and an eight-year-old girl was killed in a separate incident in Cobb that month when her mother’s gun fell to the floor and discharged.
None of those killings is directly related to the issue of guns on campus. But all of them testify to the risk involved when firearms are introduced into places they should not be, and into hands that should not hold them. Advocates of “campus carry” would like us to assume that guns will be handled responsibly and safely, but the evidence is to the contrary. Furthermore, they have blocked every effort to legally require the high degree of responsibility that ought to come with gun ownership.
Again, Deal knows all that. He knows what he ought to do, what leadership and stewardship require of him. I just hope that he carries through with it.