Campus carry moving forward despite student leader opposition

Photos courtesy of Jennifer Abrams and Marc Canellas

As the two student body presidents of the 25,034 undergraduate and graduate students at Georgia Tech, there is one question we constantly get asked: Why is the legislature trying to pass HB 859? Here is a letter we have drafted for our students that we want to share with you:

Dear Georgia Tech Student:

Thank you for your question about House Bill 859, the “campus carry” provision to allow licensed individuals to carry concealed firearms on our campus.

The first thing we can tell you is that the bill was not created at our request. From students to the administration, we collectively oppose the bill.

You and your fellow students strongly oppose the bill: 70 percent oppose the measure in a survey of 5,738 Georgia Tech students (23 percent of students).

The two people most responsible for our safety and well-being on campus favor the current
law: President Bud Peterson and Georgia Tech Police Chief Rob Connolly.

The presidents of all 28 other institutions in the University System of Georgia (USG), their police chiefs, and the Chancellor of USG, Hank Huckaby, oppose the bill.

In response to this opposition, some state leaders have argued that as long as there aren’t mass shootings, the educational environment is unaffected by guns.

Many have written at-length about the other fundamental issues beyond mass shootings that underlie this proposed law. Such as, easier access to guns will exacerbate run-of-the-mill disagreements into something far more dangerous. Or that in such a stressful environment, having access to a gun drastically increases the risk of suicide. Beyond immediate safety concerns, this law could weaken the academic prowess of Georgia Tech by encouraging top minds to seek employment elsewhere and effectively censoring discussion of sensitive topics.

But this letter isn’t about mass shootings or the abundance of other concerns. This letter is about the impact on the day-to-day life of Georgia Tech students. This is about the small, implicit assumption on our campus that will be permanently changed: that the police are the only ones with firearms.

With this law, we must now assume that our friends, classmates, faculty and staff have firearms at all times. Contrary to the perspective of some state leaders, this assumption does not inspire confidence and security. It instills fear.

It instills fear in the 24-year- old graduate teaching assistant who has to give back a difficult midterm exam in which some of the class earned a failing grade. He doesn’t know if someone will come to his office with a gun, so he cancels office hours for the next few weeks.

It instills fear in the 20-year-old female student who realized that “study date” didn’t mean the same thing to her classmate only after she was alone in the closed study room with him. Before campus carry, this was just an awkward situation, but after campus carry, she knows that with the wrong guy, the situation could evolve into something much worse.

Maybe these little changes don’t show up in crime statistics to be quoted by legislators or by the media, but we know they matter to you. These daily interactions that require trust and safety are the foundation for everything we do at Georgia Tech. We know that our school is supposed to be a place where students are safe to learn, safe to challenge each other on ideas, safe to grow and mature. House Bill 859 will challenge and undermine that safety.

Ultimately, some state leaders have argued that we should be focused on making sure that students are taught and educated, and that the law will take care of the rest. We trust our state leaders to take care of us. We have to trust them.  They are our elected representatives, our advocates.

We hope they will be able to weigh the real day-to-day fear of our students against the generalities of Second Amendment rights advocated by others. We hope they will speak up for us.