Opinion: Guns for the good guys

Illustration by Darian Mathews | The Signal
Illustration by Darian Mathews | The Signal
Illustration by Darian Mathews | The Signal

I’m generally of the school of thought that guns should not be allowed on campus, but I’m hesitant to express that opinion too vehemently, because I don’t have enough information on the topic, and I don’t want to pollute the public discourse with yet another uninformed knee-jerk reaction.

What I can talk about are observations I’ve made about the recent Georgia history of this subject and particularly the behavior of current Governor Nathan Deal.

Nathan Deal signed House Bill 60 (HB 60) in July 2014. This bill allowed people to carry guns in places they hadn’t been able to before, including “schools, bars, churches and government buildings,” according to AJC.

State Rep. Rick Jasperse was a sponsor of the 2014 bill, and also helped file House Bill 859 (HB 859), which is the currently-infamous ‘Campus Carry’ bill, so there has been a push among state government for this provision for some time now.

Deal reacted to detractors of HB 60 who were afraid that allowing people to carry guns in “schools, bars, churches and government buildings” was too risky, and he urged voters not to forget HB 60 left out the campus carry provision, according to AJC.

Now, the same thing is happening with HB 859 (HB 859). What does Deal have to say about it? He said that he heard the same complaints when HB 60 was being considered:

“We heard all the hype that we’re now hearing about Campus Carry, all the predictions of tragedies. All the predictions that we were going to open our state up to a Wild West scenario, and that those fears don’t appear to have come true,” AJC quoted him as saying.

So, basically, he told people to quit whining about HB 60 because there wasn’t a campus carry provision, and now he’s telling people to quit whining about campus carry because of how they were whining about HB 60.

That’s like telling someone to quit whining about the rain because at least it’s not hailing, then to tell them to quit whining about the hail because they whined about the rain when it wasn’t hailing.

We shouldn’t just assume Deal is flipping the script on us, though. Some sources such as the AJC try to make it seem like Deal vocally opposed campus carry during his gubernatorial election. This is not so.

What he said was “I do not believe we need guns in college areas where alcohol is being consumed and where there are ball games and things of that nature. But I do hope we. . . find a way to make sure college students are not going to continue to be victimized,” according to AJC.

(Restrictions on guns being allowed in those areas of campuses are upheld by the current prospective bill.)

Deal has been consistent on his positions about gun laws from the beginning; it just seems like he’s just been kind of disingenuous about how far-reaching his ultimate plans are.

Yet, it doesn’t take much analysis to tell where Deal is coming from with all this. He clearly believes, like Jasperse, in “restoring rights to Georgians” regarding their right to bear arms. This means that well-regulated guns will, from his perspective, always be a good deterrent of danger.

College and university officials have criticized the campus carry bill, and Deal has responded by asserting that the university’s place is to educate while the law’s place is to decide where guns may or may not be allowed, according to AJC.

Speaker David Ralston sums up Deal’s position succinctly, “Getting a college degree should not mean abdicating your Second Amendment rights,” according to AJC.

But let’s back up for a second. Is Deal really correct when he said that people’s fears about HB 60 don’t appear to have come true?

First, Deal has no basis for saying people’s concerns don’t appear to have come true. There’s no real way to tell if the bill itself had any effect on gun crime rates, as correlation and causation are difficult to parse.

What can be said is that in general, Georgia has “poor gun safety measures,” and that it’s the “16th ‘deadliest gun state’ in the country because of its permissive gun laws and high rate of gun deaths,” according to Center for American Progress.

Those “poor gun safety measures” do not mean that people aren’t required to get background checks. In fact, there’s an overwhelming number of Georgians who believe background checks for firearms should be mandatory, also according to Center for American Progress.

But if permissive gun laws cause a high rate of gun deaths, detractors of both bills would have a point. Unfortunately, it’s hard to determine exactly what effect those laws have on the overall gun crime rate, which in Georgia, is disturbingly high already, according to Center for American Progress.

One thing that does happen is this: murder rates spike (albeit briefly) after guns have been banned, according to Crime Prevention Research Center. But again, it’s very difficult to parse why this happens.

So, an all-out ban on guns is not necessarily a desirable alternative. That being said, I’m not going to turn this article into a pro- or anti-gun manifesto.