Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Thank you, Gov. Deal, for sanity on 'campus carry'

My mom was always big on her children being polite and saying their "please and thank you's". So with Mother's Day around the corner, and in Mom's honor:

"Thank you, Governor Nathan Deal." I'd bet a lot of Georgia mothers -- and fathers -- would like to thank you as well. Thank you for having the courage and wisdom to veto House Bill 859, which would have allowed the carrying of concealed weapons on Georgia college campuses, including classrooms and faculty offices.

The decision wasn't easy, I'm sure. Deal is serving his second term and doesn't have to run for re-election, but he does have things that he wants to accomplish, programs that he needs legislative support to enact. And he had already taken a lot of harsh criticism from fellow conservatives over his previous veto of so-called "religious freedom" legislation.

Vetoing a gun bill -- even a gun bill overwhelmingly opposed by Georgia voters, according to an AJC poll -- will make the rest of his time in office more difficult.  It has also made him the rhetorical target of some mighty angry Second Amendment defenders outraged that there might be places they cannot go with their 9mm security blankets.

As the pro-gun Georgia Carry put it, the governor "has defied the will of the overwhelming majority of the Georgia Legislature" and "has also denied a basic constitutional right to law-abiding citizens, 21 years old and older, to protect themselves against violent crime in their chosen daily lives."

Let's address that issue of constitutional protection once again, and head on: The claim that there's a Second Amendment right to carry concealed weapons on a college campus is fraudulent. It is a political fabrication, with no basis in the Constitution or our nation's history. Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, writing in  "Heller v. D.C.," the most pro-gun Supreme Court opinion in U.S. history, made that as clear as possible:

“Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on … laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings."

In his message explaining his veto, Deal summoned even more powerful voices to speak on his behalf. As Deal pointed out, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and four other leading men met in 1824 at the soon-to-open University of Virginia as the school's Board of Visitors. During their meeting, they approved by-laws for student conduct, including a provision stating that “No student shall, within the precincts of the university, introduce, keep or use ... weapons or arms of any kind, or gunpowder.”

As Deal wrote:

"The approval of these specific prohibitions relating to 'campus carry' by the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and the principal author of the United States Constitution should not only dispel any vestige of constitutional privilege but should illustrate that having college campuses free of weapons has great historical precedent."

Nobody expects that the governor's veto will resolve the issue. The gun lobby will be back , pushing the legislation once again, because that's what it does. In recent years we have seen the biggest sustained rollback of gun laws in American history, at the local, state and national levels, yet the gun lobby thrives on the paranoid notion that gun owners have never been more endangered, and are somehow a single law or executive action away from being permanently disarmed.

To feed that paranoia, they propose ever more radical gun laws, proposals to allow guns into bars, churches, government buildings, college campuses. When more rational people protest, the  gun lobby cites their opposition as evidence of the broader anti-gun conspiracy that they are certain exists. Deal's veto is already being woven into that narrative.

As Mom would say, all we can do is keep using the good sense that the good Lord gave us, and to keep fighting it.


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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.