ATLANTA -- Part of the big national debate over gun laws and over the Second Amendment to the Constitution is playing out, in microcosm, on college campuses in Georgia and in the state legislature.
Students who want to be able to carry guns on campus are speaking out in support of a new bill in the Georgia House of Representatives that would change state law in order to allow them to do just that.
"You'd be allowed to strap on your gun the way you would in other environments, and carry it with you around campus, just as you would elsewhere around the state," said Robert Eagar, a Georgia Tech student and Chairman of "Georgia Tech Students for Concealed Carry on Campus."
Eagar and the Vice Chairman, fellow Tech student Kyle Wilkins, said it's a simple matter of self-defense.
"'Campus carry' will be a great deterrent to crime," Wilkins said, "because criminals don't want armed targets, they want something easy" to attack.
The author of the bill, known at the State Capitolby its official name, "HB 29," is Rep. Charles Gregory, (R) Kennesaw.
Gregory did not respond Tuesday night to a request for comment, but Eagar and Wilkins said they will be working to help Gregory convince legislators to vote for the bill.
Eagar and Wilkins said there are "Concealed Carry on Campus" groups at six state colleges and universities, so far: Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, Kennesaw State University, Southern Polytechnic State University, Clayton State University, and the University of Georgia.
In an exclusive 11Alive/SurveyUSA poll last week, 29 percent of those responding said students and staff should be allowed to arm themselves on campus. 65 percent said they want the law to remain as it is, banning guns from campus.
Victims of big city crime on and near the urban campus of Georgia Tech, in particular, are caught in the crossfire of the debate over the proposed new law, which would apply to everyone 21 and older -- students and everyone else who can legally carry a gun in Georgia.
Among students who support the bill is 2nd-Year Tech Student Jess Mints.
"We have a lot of crime," Mints said. "It's a good idea in terms of protection, but the kids would have to be trained with the weapon. And if they have a legal license with the weapon, it's something that I would actually do."
"Honestly, I have mixed feelings toward it," said Lonnie Williams, Jr., another 2nd-year student. "Thinking of students sitting in class beside you possibly having weapons like guns or other concealed weapons" would be distracting, Williams said. "But at the same time, I feel like it's necessary. But we also have lots of Georgia Tech police, and other services, here that are here to protect students. I mean, I think there are other approaches [for self defense] versus just everyone having guns."
Even the pro-gun majority at the legislature has notbeen able to get enough support, in recent years, to pass similar proposals to allow guns on campus.
And the anti-gun forces will fight this latest attempt, this year.
"Bringing guns onto college campuses is not a good idea," said Sen. Vincent Fort, (D) Atlanta. "We need to protect students, but bringing more guns into classrooms is not the answer."
The University System of Georgia has lobbied aggressively and, so far, successfully against allowing guns on campuses.
Supporters and opponents will know within a couple of months if this latest proposal will pass or fail in the legislature.
Read the bill at the Georgia House website. It's a .pdf file --