"Still grading?" I asked my colleague, a professor at a Georgia college, as she carefully viewed her laptop a few weeks ago.
"I'm finished with that," she told me. "Now I'm pricing bulletproof vests."
She had good reason to do so. Earlier that week, the Georgia legislature, through HB 859, tried to make my state the tenth to allow guns in public colleges. Before that, the Peach State was one of nearly 20 that ban guns at public colleges. The others leave it up to colleges to decide for themselves what to do.
She wasn't too optimistic. She's heard all of the rhetoric from state legislators in this typically Southern state. Not long ago, Peach State politicians came within a single vote of making guns legal on college campuses, and the Republican who blocked the bill is no longer in office, having retired.
But I've tried to tell her that while politicians like Governor Nathan Deal are fairly conservative, they think through the bills, often providing a moderate contrast to extremists who seek headlines more than smart policy. I don't always agree with our local representatives, but we can have a professional dialogue and see each others' viewpoint.
Governor Deal did try to express his reservations about the bill. He let the General Assembly and Senate know his concerns, and gave them quite a bit of time to fix the bill. According to Ryan Phillips of the Associated Press:
Deal's decision to kill the bill isn't a complete surprise. After it passed the legislature, he asked members to pass follow-up bills addressing concerns about access to on-campus daycare centers, spaces where high schools students can take college-level courses and where disciplinary hearings are held. They declined, saying the original bill was carefully considered. Deal, who is in his second and final term, said last week that he would "do what's in the best interests of as many Georgians as possible.
But the bill supporters just figured that Deal was a Republican and he would just go along with their "carefully considered" bill. They played "chicken" with Georgia's governor, and lost. He had worked with them on expanding guns in other places, so he's hardly some anti-gun politician.
According to legend, George Washington described the U.S. Senate as the "saucer that cools the hot tea" of the House of Representatives. In Georgia, that's what the governor is doing, cooling down the fiery rhetoric and searing bills on guns, religion, and other issues.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.