How a grammatical issue could spell trouble for Georgia’s ‘campus carry’ bill

Gov. Nathan Deal. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Gov. Nathan Deal got what he wanted out of the latest version of a campus gun measure that he vetoed last year. But a possible drafting error in the measure could complicate his decision to sign the bill.

The governor nixed the legislation last year legalizing firearms on more places in public college campuses after lawmakers defied his personal request for changes that would make exceptions to the expansion, but said he was willing to reopen the debate as long as they acceded to his demands.

In a late compromise between House and Senate leaders, lawmakers approved a measure that appeared to do just that by barring guns from on-campus child care facilities, faculty and administrative office space, and disciplinary meetings.

That hastily-written deal, though, may have suffered from a grammatical problem. Writing in GeorgiaPol.com, Democratic aide Stefan Turkheimer notes a lack of a comma could cause legal issues.

It revolves around a provision that excludes certain on-campus spots, including “faculty, staff, or administrative offices or rooms where disciplinary proceedings are conducted.”

The problem, Turkheimer writes, is the missing comma after the word offices. He continues:

Without that comma, it’s just two clauses both modifying “offices or rooms.” This reading becomes even more persuasive when you consider that both of these area exceptions, if they were meant to be separate, could, and perhaps should, have been put into different clauses. That’s how “Move on When Ready” and career academies were handled in the same bill.

So unless faculty offices are also rooms where “disciplinary hearings are conducted”, they would NOT be exempted. Let’s just ignore whether these rooms are off-limits only when they are being used for disciplinary hearings or whether they are off-limits from carrying at all times because sometimes they host disciplinary meetings (makes less sense, but that’s what the bill says).

Deal’s office didn’t comment on the legislation. But the vetting process that begins in earnest on Monday is sure to delve into the grammatical consequences of legislation for the hundreds of bills awaiting his signature.

Reader Comments 0

10 comments
Polymath42
Polymath42

English is a rich language, which is why it's commonly used around the world.  Proper punctuation and grammar are critical to the precision of meaning which is a major attribute of our native tongue - ESPECIALLY when laws are being written.

quickdigits
quickdigits

I think we all know that Nathan Deal is going to veto this campus carry bill. He might as well admit it: He is basically Anti-Gun and he doesn't care if students get shot on campus by some crazed intruder or gang member. Ya, thanks a lot Governor Deal for showing your True Colors.....Blue!

rgcviper
rgcviper

Reminds me of an old joke I found online:

"Let's eat Grandma!"

(Grandma): "WHAT??"

"Let's eat, Grandma!"

Punctuation saves lives!

Cobbian
Cobbian

Just veto it.  University administrators, faculty, and students don't want guns on campus.  This time, let them be the ones who are heard instead of the gun lobby.  They are the ones who are actually there, in that space and they don't want the guns there, too.  

GB101
GB101

@Cobbian I think you are right in saying that these people do not want guns on campus.  What steps now are taken to keep guns off campuses?  As far as I can tell the only effort to keeps guns away is words in books that no criminal will pay attention to.

PappyHappy
PappyHappy

Should we just chalk this error up to the Georgian drafter's Georgia education?  Where did he go to school?? 

GB101
GB101

@PappyHappy Perhaps you could give us your analysis of the sentence and its punctuation.  Where did you go to school?  Were you taught that snarky remarks are a substitute for reasoned discussion?

aheadabove
aheadabove

Georgia's Legislature = Idiots at Work

GB101
GB101

@aheadabove Perhaps you could give us your analysis of the sentence and its punctuation.  What is idiotic about the language in the bill?