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08 March 2016

Guns Are (Likely) Coming to Georgia Higher Ed (and How Faculty Should Respond)

The stage is set for guns to be allowed on college campuses in Georgia. As I have blogged before, I have a longstanding policy of not allowing guns in my classrooms or office. As far as I am concerned, this policy will not change, regardless of the law. Nevertheless, if House Bill 859 passes the State Senate and is signed by Gov. Deal as is currently expected, guns will be allowed around me, my colleagues, and my students, which is unacceptable for two major reasons.

First, the purported spirit of HB 859, that it "is about personal safety and the ability of Georgians to defend themselves as needed," is not rooted in reality. Study after study has shown that the presence and prevalence of guns is correlated with a decrease in safety, not an increase. This is essentially settled science. At the very least, HB 859 seems to violate OSHA regulations, if not reason.

Second, our lawmakers and governor lack the courage of their own convictions as they continue to restrict firearms and other weapons from the State Capitol, the Governor's office, and the State Supreme Court, among other government buildings. If our elected officials actually do believe that permitted carriers of concealed firearms increase safety, they should move to immediately rectify the inconsistency of the law so that guns could be carried into the galleries of the House, Senate, and Supreme Court; into congresspersons' offices; and indeed, into the Governor's office. If, as I suspect, our lawmakers will refuse to allow guns in their place of work, this belies what they claim is the motivation of HB 859.

Many would note that the business of governing is a contentious matter that makes it more vulnerable to acts of violence, especially to weapons capable of mass carnage from a distance, such as firearms. I would agree, and for those same reasons, firearms also have no place in colleges and universities. My job regularly requires that I teach about and moderate discussions involving highly contentious issues, such as abortion, capital punishment, crime, climate change, gender, homosexuality, immigration, poverty, racism, religion, terrorism, war, and indeed, gun control itself. If lawmakers are uncomfortable debating these issues in the presence of guns, they should not require me, my colleagues, and students to do so.

Here is my proposal:
As professors and instructors, we should respond to HB 859 by simply taking rational steps to protect the safety of ourselves and our students, that is to hold our classes and office hours in the few remaining places where firearms are still logically not permitted, in government buildings and offices, and indeed in the State Capitol itself! By making ourselves visible in first the statehouse and then in local halls, we can draw attention to the hypocrisies noted above. We ask for nothing more than the legal consideration that governmental figures bestow on themselves.

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