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By Brigitte Joyce
If you’re like me, you’ve flown out of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.
Georgia has played host to the world’s busiest passenger airport for 15 straight years. With planned improvements, we are expected to host some 13 million people from around the country and the world in 2015 alone. So I’m flummoxed that the Georgia state legislature is expected to send a bill to Gov. Nathan Deal as soon as this week to allow loaded guns, even high-powered assault rifles, into airports – including Hartsfield-Jackson.
Hartsfield-Jackson is the state’s largest employer, with some 58,000 employees. Airlines, ground transportation, concessionaires, security, the federal workers, city personnel and airport employees show southern hospitality to the 250,000 people a day that arrive and depart – keeping them coming back, keeping jobs and investment here in Georgia.
I know a thing or two about guns, and I know something about security.
Serving in the U.S. Army for 24 years, I was a supply sergeant and received extensive weapons training for deployments. I enlisted during the Cold War, was deployed to the first Gulf War and served beyond the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. I’m also a South Georgia native who hunts and owns a gun for personal protection. I’ve served to defend the rights I exercise on a daily basis.
My experience, my values, and a large amount of common sense tell me that this “guns everywhere” Georgia bill is a bad idea.
The bill already passed the State House and is now being considered in the Senate. In addition to allowing people to roam unsecured airport areas with guns and even bring them into TSA security lines without consequence, it would allow K-12 teachers, administrators, staff or anyone authorized by a local school board to carry firearms anywhere on school grounds. It would decriminalize campus carry. It would allow people to conceal-carry in houses of worship and in bars, unless the organization specifically opted out. And it would allow guns in state and local government buildings, libraries, public housing and City Council meetings.
Even more dangerous is who would be allowed to bring guns into airports and schools. The legislation that could be sent to Governor Deal any day would actually allow people who have been convicted of threatening someone else with a gun to get a carry permit. I was raised around values of responsible gun ownership, but this bill puts guns in the hands of the most dangerous people – and invites them into the most sensitive places in our communities.
Meanwhile, the gun lobby and the state legislature continue to support allowing many gun sales to occur without background checks, so that anybody wanting to buy a gun – be it a criminal, domestic abuser or dangerously mentally ill – can easily get a firearm. I believe that poses an unnecessary and avoidable danger to every citizen in Georgia, not to mention my child, family members and friends.
I am a member of Veterans for Responsible Solutions, a national constituency of retired flag officers, senior officers and former enlisted service members of the U.S. Armed Forces founded by former astronaut and Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Today, we number some 3,000 former service members from around the country from all branches and ranks.
As service members, each of us had to pass a background check to carry our weapons, and we were committed to and trained on their safe, responsible use. Now we need to stand up and oppose the gun lobby and send a clear signal that we stand with our country in doing what we can to protect our rights and our families by keeping guns out of the hands of those who would do us harm and away from the most sensitive places
As a mother and someone who dedicated my career to keeping our nation safe and protecting our rights, I urge Georgia lawmakers to keep our residents and travelers to our state safe from gun violence. The Georgia motto is Wisdom, Justice, Moderation. Let’s hold true to such values.
Brigette Joyce is a retired Army Sergeant Major.