Soon in Georgia, every public college and university classroom will stand out. Students will write notes tediously in their books and professors will stand at the helm as they always have. But if you look closely at the students seated within those classrooms, you’ll notice something that sets them apart: guns.
As of March 8, Georgia lawmakers have successfully passed legislation that would allow concealed carry on state campuses. The bill allows anyone 21 or older with a weapons license to carry a gun anywhere on a public college or university campus with the exception of athletic facilities, dormitories and fraternity and sorority houses. The bill also requires that weapons be concealed.
This legislation, now passed along to Georgia’s governor for a signature, would make Georgia the ninth state to have a campus carry law — alongside Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Oregon, Kansas and Texas.
In 23 states, such as Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, individual schools are permitted to ban guns and create their own policies, while 18 states including New Jersey have banned carrying a weapon on campus altogether.
New Jersey schools have “safe” zones that are weapon-free, intended to protect students from acts of violence. But within these zones, students are sitting ducks. Anyone who wants to commit a mass crime knows that they can come to a safe zone and target students because we are unable to protect ourselves. That is why many gun advocates and Republican lawmakers are introducing campus-carry bills. If criminals enter into a public place that has a right to carry, they will be less likely to commit violence because they are unsure of who has a gun on them and will be willing to fight back. Right to carry ensures that the community is armed and prepared for instances in which someone wants to recklessly endanger the public.
While New Jersey does technically have a right-to-carry law in place, it is only available to those involved in security work, such as retired police officers and security guards. A permit to carry will not be issued to a citizen who is not involved in security-related work. This needs to be changed first in order for a campus-carry legislation to be proposed for New Jersey.
Princeton University recently took a step in the right direction when it allowed its security force to have weapons in times of crisis. The weapons are stored on campus and will not be carried unless there is an imminent danger to the community. This acts as a deterrent for those wanting to commit crimes on Princeton’s campus. Criminals are aware that it will be much more difficult to accomplish what they would like to do on a campus such as Princeton. And it will be easier to commit the crime on Rider’s campus.
The number of concealed-carry permits has increased since President Obama was elected in 2008 and murder rates have fallen, according to the Crime Prevention Research Center. The number of concealed handgun permits rose from 4.6 million to over 12.8 million, and murder rates have decreased from 5.6 killings per 100,000 people to 4.2, a 25 percent drop. In 2014 there was also more support for gun rights than gun control, according to a Pew Research poll, with 52 percent of Americans saying it is important to protect people’s Second Amendment rights, while 46 percent said it is more important to control gun ownership.
The first step in campus-carry legislation is to have an actual right-to-carry law introduced into New Jersey so that citizens can obtain a permit. Until then, campuses will continue to be safe zones where we are unarmed against those who come to intrude on our lives and wreak havoc on our communities.
Junior journalism major
Printed in the 4/20/16 issue.