Published Wednesday, March 13, 2013
By Walter C. Jones
Morris News Service
ATLANTA – The Board of Regents released a statement Tuesday opposing legislation that would allow guns on college campuses, and a separate group is planning a rally to object to them in churches, bars and schools.
The groups are trying to stop House Bill 512 which passed the House of Representatives Thursday, just hours before the legislature's internal deadline. Now the matter is pending in the Senate.
The House Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee rolled into one the several separate bills to relax various gun-control measures. Then the House passed it largely on a party-line vote.
"We firmly believe the current law promotes a safe learning environment for our students and working environment for our faculty and staff," notes the four-sentence statement signed by Chancellor Hank Huckaby, the regents of the University System of Georgia and the presidents of the state's 31 public colleges.
Huckaby testified against it in the House committee.
A group calling itself Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is taking a more public tact. Jewish and Christian clergy are also scheduled to participate.
"As people of faith, we urge our elected leaders to reject the proliferation of guns in public places as advocated in HB512," said the Rev. Gary Charles, pastor of Central Presbyterian Church across the street from the Capitol. "We call our worship spaces 'sanctuaries' as a reminder that this is where God's people come to worship God and feel safe from the threat of gun violence." Legislators supporting the bill point to the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment as giving citizens the right to carry guns, arguing that rights should only be restricted under rare circumstances. They also challenge gun-control advocates' contention that outlawing guns would make people safe by noting that murder is already illegal and that anyone willing to break that law won't be stopped by a new one.
Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, unsuccessfully sponsored legislation last term to eliminate the requirement for concealed-weapons permits all together. "I appreciate the Board of Regents' position; however, the language to ease the concealed carry prohibition on campuses reaffirms that citizens who are full-time students should not be regulated to second-class citizen status just because they want to further their education," he said. "Also, criminals will not obey gun-free zones. Students and faculty have the right to defend themselves. Government protection has its limits."
The Senate chairman of the Judiciary Non-Civil Committee where HB 512 is pending, Sen. Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro, has scheduled a meeting for Wednesday afternoon, but the bill is not on the list for consideration.