Georgia gun law set to take effect, but gauging impact may take time

Local officials throughout state mull implementing new security meaures in response to legislation

It's up to local officials, however, to make the details of Georgia's new gun law work. Earlier this month, Atlanta city schools Superintendent Erroll Davis recommended that his school board allow only trained police to bear arms in schools. Officials in Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties had similar reactions.

"There have been no discussions about that," said Samantha Evans, a spokeswoman for Fulton County Schools.

Cobb County school board member David Banks has received a few calls and emails from parents concerned about the new law and said he'd only vote for a guns-in-school policy if he were convinced it would do anything to reduce violence. Banks said he thinks shootings happen too fast for armed civilians to intervene, and he said he doesn't think the threat of armed educators is going to deter someone on a murderous rampage.

"If they're so demented that they're going to do something like that, somebody with a gun is not going to stop them," Banks said. He said the better course is to spot such "hard cases" before they act, though he acknowledged that is exceedingly difficult.

DeKalb schools Superintendent Michael Thurmond knows about the risk of dangerous people with guns. Last year, a man with a semi-automatic rifle entered Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy and fired shots, though he ultimately surrendered and no one was hurt. Gun advocates pointed to that incident as further evidence that teachers should be armed.

The elementary school invasion has weighed on Thurmond, who recommended and received eight new school resource officer positions in his district's budget for the upcoming school year. But he does not foresee asking his school board to authorize more guns in school beyond those hanging from the hips of his officers.

"I don't think it would make the DeKalb County school system safer," Thurmond said. He said he has seen no objective evidence that weapons in civilian hands would deter those bent on violence. He also said he hadn't received a single request from the community to arm his educators.

James Waddell, a parent, has often complained publicly about security at Southwest DeKalb High School, where his son attends. But Waddell, who is the incoming vice president of the school parent-teacher association and works as a corrections officer in Atlanta, only wants more cops with guns. He said guns in civilian hands would not make him feel that his son was any safer.

"What do guns do to make anything safer? We've got guns in Iraq and everybody's being shot to death," he said. "It's crazy. We don't want to arm teachers."

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