JENKINS: Gunfight at the OK biology lab?

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

If you think grade inflation in college is bad now, just wait until the students are allowed to carry guns.

That could happen if Senate Bill 98 passes the General Assembly this week, eliminating many exceptions to Georgia's concealed-carry law. In essence, under this bill, anyone with a permit to carry a concealed weapon would be allowed to do so on the campuses of the state's public colleges and universities.

The bill leaves intact prohibitions against carrying guns into government buildings, such as the state capitol. Clearly, lawmakers don't want anyone shooting at them. I guess they think college professors are expendable. Hey, most professors are liberals, anyway.

Let me preface what I'm about to say by pointing out that, although a college professor, I'm not a liberal. Nor am I anti-gun. On the contrary, I'm a gun owner, an occasional hunter and a staunch defender of Second Amendment rights.

I just think it's nuts to allow college kids to carry guns on campus.

Look, can we agree that no right is absolute? That the right to free speech, for example, does not grant anyone license to yell "fire!" at a crowded Thrashers game? OK, bad example.

Likewise, even in a free society, there must be places where it's simply not appropriate to carry weapons. The authors of SB 98 acknowledge as much by retaining the government-building exception.

In the old West, cowboys were often required to check their six-shooters with the sheriff before hitting the saloon. Frontier lawmen understood that youth, immaturity, alcohol and firearms form a dangerous mix.

Might that same logic apply to today's college campuses? Let's see. Youth -- check. Immaturity -- check. Alcohol -- check. Firearms? Heaven forbid.

I've seen the studies indicating that an armed citizenry serves as a deterrent to violent crime, not as an incubator for it. I have no reason to doubt those studies. But they generally involved responsible adults, not college kids.

Moreover, arming students would prevent ... what, exactly? A crime like the one at Virginia Tech, which was sensational precisely because it almost never happens? That will change if gun possession on campus becomes an accepted norm rather than a dire offense.

Or perhaps legislators assume faculty and staff will arm themselves and thus prevent a Columbine-style nightmare. That isn't going to happen. Most of my colleagues would rather kiss George W. Bush on the lips than touch a firearm. A few, perhaps, might elect to carry, and if we're lucky they'll be people who know how to use a gun and won't hesitate to do so in defense of innocent lives.

But I really hope my quiet campus isn't turned into Dodge City, circa 1870. I don't want to wonder if the next student who comes by to complain about his grade might be packing a 9mm in his book bag.

Maintaining academic standards is hard enough as it is.

Rob Jenkins is a free-lance writer and college professor who lives in Lawrenceville. E-mail him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.