Those in opposition spoke most fervently against allowing guns on college campuses and pointed to an alleged inconsistency in the bill (which continues to forbid guns in campus dormitories and sporting venues).
Representative Karla Drenner, D-Avondale Estates, a college professor, told colleagues from the well of the House about her experience of being frightened by a “very tall and large” male student. “All I could think was, what if he had had a gun.” Alluding to the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut she continued: “I have a hard time understanding why we are responding to a series of tragedies by expanding the likelihood of danger.”
Dr. Drenner quoted research published in the American Journal of Public Health which reported that someone carrying a gun for “self defense” is 4.5 times more likely to be shot than someone who is unarmed.
Dr. Drenner concluded by saying: “Our fear should not be of the possible mugger on Peachtree or in Downtown Athens—it should be the senior she was dating and just broke up with. The authors of this bill made an arbitrary decision to listen to those who said guns in certain settings were dangerous – sporting events and frat house. But they tuned out when experts said guns in classrooms or dining halls were also unsafe. This isn’t logical and can’t be justified.”
Drenner was followed by a series of bill proponents who, knowing the bill would pass by wide margins, made statements ostensibly to please the Rules Chairman John Meadows, R-Calhoun, co-author of the bill (and the man who decides whether law maker’s bills make it to the House floor). Paul Battles, R-Cartersville, author of HB35 (which was later incorporated into the bill) took time to explain how the “School Safety Bill” (which gives school administrators the option to allow designated, trained officials to carry firearms within k-12 schools) was decided. Jay Neal, R-La Fayette, a pastor, explained why his bill, which allows guns in churches, was also incorporated. Meadows told lawmakers that he and Representative Jasperse, R-Jasper begun the planning process for the bill in October. He shared that the pair also met with (successively) Georgia Carry, the Speaker, the Board of Regents, (who strongly oppose allowing guns on campus) and the Governor. The two authored “seven versions of the bill in the past three weeks.”
Public Safety Chairman, Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, who presided over countless hearings on various gun bills chastised opponents for alleging that components of the bill were made without sufficient vetting: “Every person has a right to be heard.” Powell, who admitted: “I can be testy” shared the process with his colleagues: “We rolled up all the bills. The second amendment stops where the 4th amendment (alluding to private property rights) starts.” Powell was referring to Representative Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta who criticized the authors of relying more on theory than research when developing the bill. He said more should be done to address the needs of the mentally ill. “We have to do better treating those with mental illness. As you may recall,
[State Supreme Court Justice] Chief Justice Hunstein said that mental health treatment is almost unavailable except if there is a threat of suicide or homicide. I’d like us to do better addressing that.”
O’Dell provides news on state government through, The O’Dell Report in newspapers in North Georgia and her blog. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]