As a member of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee, I found it difficult to watch supporters of House Bill 859 speak with such insensitivity and disrespect before the Bishop family, who are the parents of one of the victims from the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting. Similar legislation was proposed in 2014 with HB 512, but, in my opinion, HB 859 is far worse. At some point common sense should prevail.
HB 859 would force Georgia’s public colleges and universities to allow guns on campus, despite disapproval from stakeholders, including campus police chiefs, college presidents, students and faculty who voiced their disapproval during the lengthy debates on both HB 512 and HB 859.
This is not a political argument. There is empirical data that shows the leading factors to teenage gun related accidents are inexperience and underdeveloped decision making skills. This is not conjecture: this is science. When making decisions, the brain’s frontal lobe, which is responsible for processing critical data, plays an enormous role. This is the part of the brain that tells most experienced, mature gun owners not to play Russian roulette with a loaded weapon. This is the part of the brain that tells mature and experienced gun owners that pointing a gun at someone playfully is dangerous and potentially life threatening. However, this part of the brain does not fully mature until the age of 20 at the earliest, and, according to many professionals, the age of 25 for the average person.
For those who are afraid to do the right thing for fear of not being re-elected, a poll published by the AJC stated that 78 percent of Georgians do not want guns on college campuses. Furthermore, 72 percent of Georgians do not want guns in places of worship.
As if the lives of Georgia citizens were not enough, the estimated economic impact in similar states is quite shocking. If passed, HB 859 would significantly impact our public schools, guaranteeing increased tuition for at least the next few years in order to cover security costs. In 2014, Idaho passed a law allowing guns on campus, and as a result, five state schools spent more than $3.7 million on increased security in the first year alone. Texas campus carry legislation was estimated to cost schools roughly $59 million over six years. And in Arizona, it was estimated that allowing guns on its three campuses would cost $13.3 million for just a one-time expense.
It is no secret that many opponents of HB 859 have caved to pressures of special interest groups at the expense of concerned citizens who represent the majority of citizens on this issue. The present laws relating to guns were written with the goal of protecting our citizens, and the public knows where guns are allowed and are not allowed. There are certain places where it makes sense not to allow guns, including buildings and places where large groups of people gather, such as places of worship, schools, government buildings and yes, universities and colleges. There are common sense reasons for these laws, and many have argued that the provisions in HB 859 simply do not make sense. Common sense should prevail.
Allowing guns on campus is a dangerous and expensive choice for Georgia. While I remain hopeful that when HB 859 comes before the Public Safety Committee that common sense will prevail, I challenge my colleagues and Georgia citizens to put people before politics and stand up for the safety of Georgia’s students. I invite my colleagues to stand with me as I stand for the 32 Virginia Tech students, as well as the 20 Newtown Connecticut children and the Emmanuel Nine in their house of worship who were senselessly murdered.
For these reasons, I urge you to stand up for public safety and for Georgia’s youth and vote NO on HB 859. And one more thing, let’s not forget that many of the proponents to HB 859 interestingly decided not to allow guns in the state Capitol.