Keep guns off campus, college president says

From the The Brunswick News

In the wake of the massacre of schoolchildren and adults in Newtown, Conn., College of Coastal Georgia President Valerie Hepburn has asked local legislators to leave the state's gun laws as they are and not to open college campuses to firearms.

She joins a group of 160 college presidents nationwide, led by presidents of Oglethorpe University in Atlanta and Agnes Scott College in Decatur, who are opposing any legislation that would allow guns on college campuses.

"Please let the sanctity and safety of those educational settings remain intact," Hepburn said.

There has been a recent push in Georgia to enact legislation that would legalize carrying a concealed weapon on college campuses, but it has not become a law.

Hepburn says weapons have no place on college campuses, or any other school.

She did not go as far as saying stricter gun laws are needed; she simply does not want guns on the hips of students in classes.

The reaction to the Newtown shooting rampage should not be to arm everyone, Hepburn said. "I hope that in the wake of what happened, cooler heads will prevail," she said.

State Sen. William Ligon, R-St. Simons Island, does not expect the issue to be considered during the January session of the General Assembly. "It was a horrible thing that happened," Ligon said of the Newtown killings.

Given current circumstances, the Legislature has more pressing issues to address than entering a debate over carrying weapons on college campuses, he said. Difficult fiscal issues will likely be the topic of conversation, rather than gun laws, Ligon said.

"I don't suspect there will be much of an effort towards that," he said.

He did not say whether he would support or oppose legislation to allow guns on campus if it were introduced but did say people from both sides of the argument make valid points.

The opposition claims many students on college campuses are not mature or experienced enough to be trusted with firearms on campus, he said.

Conversely, police are not always around on urban campuses when students leave night classes in areas where crime may be high, Ligon said.

"Those are both valid concerns, and the issue would take some serious consideration before any decisions were made," Ligon said.

Conversely, Rep.-elect Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, said he would be surprised if the issue were not taken up by the Legislature.

"There probably will be some (bills) that will be proposed, and we will have to wait and see exactly what they are proposing," Chapman said.

He doesn't plan to introduce any changes to Georgia's gun laws, but he says he is a strong advocate of gun rights and supports allowing concealed weapons on college campuses and schools for law-abiding citizens.

"It's really unfortunate that there was not someone there at the school (in Newtown) that had the ability to protect the children," Chapman said, adding that he does not know if the school had an armed security officer.

Many gunmen have obtained weapons illegally, Chapman said, and persons who follow the law should be able to defend themselves.

"I feel very strongly about legally law-abiding citizens having the ability to defend themselves," Chapman said.

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Release Date: 12/21/2012
Source: The Brunswick News

By MICHAEL HALL and NIKKI WILEY