A separate group rallied at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to object to proposals like Georgia’s, which would allow guns in churches, bars and schools, as well.
House Bill 512 passed the Georgia House last week just hours before the legislature’s internal deadline. Now the matter is pending in the state Senate.
Renva Watterson, interim president at Georgia Highlands College, said Wednesday she is very concerned that the bill has made it this far.
“I consider this to be a very dangerous measure,” Watterson said. “It creates an environment too volatile to manage.”
Watterson said that if the bill passes, there would likely be more tragedies on campuses rather than self-defense success stories.
“Research shows these laws are ineffective in self-defense situations and increase chances that disagreements might escalade into harmful and lethal encounters,” she said.
Georgia Highlands College has five campuses in five Northwest Georgia counties. With 5,500 students and 600 staff members, Watterson said she fears campus safety officers wouldn’t be able to keep hostile situations under control if students were able to conceal weapons.
“We don’t have a police force; our campus safety officers are non-gun carrying officers,” she said. “This would put us into im-
mediate jeopardy, I fear. Our officers would be underequipped, outnumbered and overwhelmed.”
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 HB 512 in the House committee.
A group calling itself Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America took a more public tack when they converged on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to confront legislatures about the bill.
“As people of faith, we urge our elected leaders to reject the proliferation of guns in public places as advocated in HB 512,” said the Rev. Gary Charles, pastor of Central Presbyterian Church across the street from the U.S. 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.
Rome News-Tribune Staff Writer Lauren Jones contributed to this report.