Brenau University President Ed Schrader joined 30 other college and university presidents Monday urging Congress and other lawmaking bodies to take “common sense” action on gun legislation and regulation that will enhance safety on their campuses.
The legislation on administrators’ minds: A bill that, if passed into law, would restrict private colleges’ authority to limit weapons on campus. Schrader said he is against such legislation.
“Colleges should be able to exercise this utmost concern for student safety and ban the carrying or transportation of firearms onto their private property,” Schrader said. “I believe that private colleges, or any private establishment, for that matter, on private property should not be forced by a capricious law to allow any person passing onto their campus to carry or transport a gun. It should be the right of the property owner and business owner to declare the establishment as a ‘no carry’ zone relative to firearms.”
House Bill 29, the Georgia Campus Carry Act of 2013, was introduced in December and assigned to a committee in January, but has not had a hearing yet.
David Morrison, spokesman for Brenau, said that kind of legislative action would be problematic.
“None of our security guys carry weapons. None,” he said. “The opposition to the legislation is practical. We believe that more guns on campus would affect the safety of students, faculty and employees.”
Students on campus Tuesday afternoon expressed some concern for their safety, however.
“In some ways, I don’t feel safe on this campus because the security guards aren’t armed. We’re an open campus,” Ashley Meyers said.
Allie Hawkins, another student, voiced a similar concern, but said she thinks anyone carrying a weapon should undergo mental health screenings.
Schrader is not alone in his opposition, Morrison said.
“We’re part of the Georgia Independent Colleges Association, GICA, probably a 30-plus-member institution, and that organization is a very strong opponent of any sort of legislation that would reduce the safety on campuses.”
GICA President Susanna Baxter said its member schools represent a diversity of gun-carry policies.
“Some allow guns for hunting programs, and some schools would never allow them — they don’t want to allow them. And for some it is within their mission or academic program,” she said.
“I believe private property owners, such as private institutions, should be allowed to determine their own policy,” she said. “We like what is currently law: that our institutions can determine their own policy.”
Morrison said variations of bills outlawing gun restrictions are introduced almost every session.
“It’s a perennial effort — there’s some sort of legislation like this almost every session,” Morrison said.
But federal measures from President Barack Obama’s administration and Congress have increased momentum in states across the country to propose gun legislation.
Schrader said he generally supports “limited constraints that should be logically applied to gun ownership,” such as passing a background check before purchase and limiting the number of ammunition rounds that a semi-automatic weapon can hold.
The presidents’ group represents diverse opinions and ideas on how public officials should address gun issues, Schrader said.
“We do, however, share one central, all-consuming concern: the safety of our students,” he said.