Governor Nathan Deal rejected a bill on Tuesday that would have allowed eligible students in Georgia to carry concealed weapons at public universities. In a lengthy veto statement, Deal said he found “enlightening evidence” for his position in the views of pair of Founding Fathers who, nearly two centuries ago, opened a college where guns would not be allowed.
In October of 1824, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison attended a board meeting of the University of Virginia, which would open the following spring. Jefferson and Madison had spent not a little time thinking about individual liberties. But minutes from the meeting show that their new school would not extend the right to bear arms to its red-brick grounds.
“No student shall, within the precincts of the University, introduce, keep or use any spirituous or vinous liquors, keep or use weapons or arms of any kind…” the board declared. In his veto statement, Deal zeroed in on that passage, which can be seen in the original document below:
Deal made a bold choice to root his choice in this historical context. He could have justified his decision by referencing poll statistics (which in 2014 showed scant support for campus carry in Georgia) or listing higher education officials’ and academics’ concerns about free speech and law enforcement’s worries about student safety (all of which were abundantly voiced).