My daughter is a UGA sophomore. I am an Army combat veteran with a Georgia concealed carry permit and a conservative devotee to the 2nd Amendment. Like many fathers, I would sacrifice my law-abiding history in a heartbeat to become a felon to inflict very ugly vengeance on any dirtbag who harmed my daughter.
So student self-defense is important to me, but I believe the campus carry bill is the wrong way to protect students, for three reasons.
First, a college campus is chock full of behavior below the threshold of discipline required to responsibly handle firearms. Many college students are responsible young adults, but others push the envelope of newfound freedom, delight in grab-ass, over-indulge in alcohol and experiment with prohibited substances that make behavior unpredictable. Even though a concealed carry permit requires age 21, and even though some may be experienced veterans, putting guns in that campus mix raises concern about mishaps.
Second, there are available self-protection measures short of lethal weapons.
Whether at UGA or an urban campus bordering unsafe neighborhoods, the regular use of personal safety devices would make predators think twice. Pepper spray will temporarily blind an assailant. A taser will kick his legs out from under him and make him cry for his mommy from the fetal position. A key ring personal alarm will scream for help with piercing noise up to 130 decibels. A strobe light will draw attention from a wide radius, wider at night. All of these deterrents are permitted on campus, according to the UGA Police Department.
Third, the patchwork of exceptions in the campus carry bill, specified locations on campus where licensed carry is NOT permitted, is a recipe for confused violations and introduces the predicament of needing a secure place to temporarily store one’s firearm.
I don’t think the Governor should sign this bill. It is more of a nod to carry proponents than real student protection.
There is another kind of threat to colleges and K-12 schools — an active shooter, a lunatic bent on slaughter. Law enforcement advice is to run, hide, then fight as a last resort. I think that is dead wrong, doubly so in a school. Instead, we should urge every adult in our country, starting with high school students, to immediately attack an active shooter. If a shooter is rushed by a small mob, he would be quickly overcome, even if he shot a few. Yes, I know, I would be scared, too.
In the 2015 San Bernardino shooting, students and teachers lined up as instructed to obediently wait for their bullet and the count was 14 dead, 22 injured. If they had been ingrained with the notion they must immediately attack an active shooter, encouraged to think through well in advance the fear to expect and overcome to maximize the number who will survive, some of them might have rushed the shooter while throwing anything within reach, armed with only fingernails and screams. The dirtbag would likely have been subdued with far fewer casualties.
In classrooms and admin areas, handy pepper spray should be a standard.
In every K-12 school and college campus, concealed carry should be covertly assigned, not to students but to some selected academic and support staff because they are already adept with firearms. Such a program could be managed by police officials to apply rigorous standards of firearm qualification, proficiency and safety. If shooters must wonder who is armed, perhaps they will not show up at schools at all.
If you are a teacher and horrified at the thought of betting your life to attack an active shooter, much preferring to let law enforcement deal with the bad guys while you quake in fear hiding under a desk, ask yourself this insane and unfair question well in advance, with hopes that dark day never comes: “How many kids will the madman kill before I rush him to stop him, knowing he might kill me? How many?”
Reality is not always pleasant. When seconds count our faithful police are just minutes away. We should re-orient the public to use personal defense measures available to them, and to be poised to attack and throw what they can reach in the unlikely event of an active shooter.
On every college campus we should be taking responsibility to protect ourselves using the devices and measures already available that do not require the added risk of campus carry.
[Terry Garlock occasionally contributes a column to The Citizen. He lives in Peachtree City.]