Supporters of gun control have been giddy the past two days because Georgia Governor Nathan not only vetoed campus carry in Georgia, but dug up a historical document to claim that the Founding Fathers were fundamentally opposed to guns on university campuses. The Atlantic was just one of many outlets giddy over Deal’s veto.
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.
What neither Deal nor The Atlantic bother to mention was the context for the decision of the board.
At the time, dueling over perceived slights was still in fashion among the upper class sons of Virginia who would be attending the school, and the men involved clearly feared a public scandal if sons from prominent families got liquored up, insulted one another, and decided that the only “polite” social remedy was pistols at dawn.
Jefferson in particular had good reason to loath dueling; his former Vice President, Aaron Burr, killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel (Hamilton’s eleventh) in 1804, two decades before.
You’ll note that the board outlawed alcohol and weapons in one breath, clearly indicating that a fear of dueling among the sons of prominent Virginia families was their driving concern for this prohibition.
The last I checked, dueling isn’t “a thing” anymore in Georgia, or Virginia, or anywhere else in the United States.
Deal’s citing of meeting minutes from 1824 isn’t the big “Founding Father’s won’t support guns in school!!!” argument that Deal and his anti-gun allies want to make it out to be.
It was a fig leaf, ripped out of historical context, from a time where formal dueling was still taking the lives of our best and brightest.
Unless Governor Deal can cite outbreaks of duels breaking out on Georgia college campuses recently—say, within the past century—then his citing of meeting minutes from 1824 is the tiniest and most shriveled of fig leaves.