Today’s Courier Herald Column:
“A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”
Those words in their entirety are the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution. They often are debated to their true meaning among legal scholars, especially that “well regulated Militia” part, but in Georgia politics the meaning has usually been fairly clear. The last fourteen words have long been held as the 2nd Amendment to most Georgians, though modern times and the suburbanization of much of the state’s population has diminished guns as an integral part of life for many.
William E Robinson spent Sunday and Monday in a DeKalb County jail for shooting mistletoe out of a tree. This would be a normal seasonal act for many who live well outside of the Atlanta area, as would be keeping a shotgun or rifle in one’s pickup truck.
Robinson’s decision to harvest the mistletoe that was growing in trees at North DeKalb mall was, to be charitable, not a wise decision. But the reaction to his crime is likely different among Atlantans than it would be in rural Georgia, where it would be most likely greeted with a smirk or wry smile.
The harvesting of mistletoe isn’t the emerging gun issue for metro Atlanta residents these days. Students in downtown Atlanta attending Georgia Tech and Georgia State seem to be targeted for armed robberies with high frequency. As is now almost appearing common, a Georgia Tech student was robbed at gunpoint and beaten as we walked to his home off midtown’s 10th Street, adjacent to Tech’s campus.
Students on Georgia’s college campuses are not allowed to carry guns to defend themselves. In modern culture, students and guns are not viewed to mix. This despite the fact that many of the descriptions of the attackers of students in incidents similar to Mondays seem to indicate that the armed assailants are as young as or younger than those they prey upon.
It was not so long ago that Georgia high school students would be expected to hunt before or after school in the fall, often leaving the weapon in their vehicle when they took a break from hunting for the school day. In a post Columbine era, this is now considered a federal offense. Times have changed.
They have also changed with respect to the politics of gun laws in Georgia. There was a time when the National Rifle Association could win any bill they wanted before the Georgia Legislature. Despite that Georgia has always been a “pro-gun” state, the NRA had a regular schedule of pro-guns laws to introduce each session to stop gun control, or to at least keep their fundraising base energized with new direct mailers.
This hit a bit of a speed bump several years ago when the NRA decided it needed to mandate that private property owners must accept others carrying guns onto their property. This split the national NRA from local members, and other organizations such as Georgia Carry and Gun Owners of America now hold sway at the Capitol.
Most gun legislation at the Capitol these days continues to center on where guns can and can’t be carried. Bars, Marta, the Atlanta Airport, and churches have all had their review in recent dust ups. This year, college campuses appear to be in the crosshairs.
The Georgia Tech College Republicans are mobilizing to push the issue of concealed carry permits on campus. While Georgia law was recently changed to allow students to have guns in their personal vehicles on campuses, students are not allowed to have guns in their dorm rooms or on their person while on campus. Expect this to be the new battleground for Georgia gun control laws this year.
Yet the battles are not as easy within the legislature as they once were. There is little ground left to take to expand the freedoms of gun owners in Georgia, and the number of those who grew up here with guns as a way of life are now being balanced by those who did not.
Still, with the images of students continually targeted for armed robberies on or near campuses, the right of students to have concealed carry permits is one that the gun lobby can likely win.
Let’s just hope that if they do, students filled with holiday cheer don’t start shooting mistletoe out of the trees on North Avenue. There will still be quite a few in town folks who won’t relate to such activities. They may assume it to be as a hostile act and not the last hope of a engineering major to get a Christmas kiss.