Michael Stipe — former lead singer of the band R.E.M. — penned an op ed piece in USA Today on Monday urging Georgia’s Republican Gov. Nathan Deal to veto a controversial bill that would allow firearms on college campuses.
“If the governor signs the bill on his desk, he’ll be going against the 78% of Georgians who say they oppose guns on campus,” wrote Stipe, “as well as a host of college administrators and prominent student and faculty organizations that have spoken out against the bill.”
The singer went on to say that he met his bandmates while attending the University of Georgia and that several band members still reside in Athens, the town where the university is located. He said that he is concerned about on-campus tailgate parties where alcohol is consumed, about the potential for armed sexual assaults on women and about the fear that can stifle discussion of controversial topics in classrooms where participants may have loaded weapons.
He continued, “When similar legislation passed in Texas, renowned professors left – refusing to teach with guns forced into their classrooms. Six of the major universities and university systems in the state estimated a combined cost of $56 million over six years to prepare for guns on campus. Cash strapped Georgia schools simply can’t afford this.”
“Everyone in this fight believes they’re fighting to make colleges safer. But a loud gun lobby shouldn’t outweigh the voices of people across the country — 78 percent of students, 95 percent of college presidents and 89 percent of police chiefs — who say they don’t want this,” Stipe wrote.
In March, Georgia lawmakers passed House Bill 859, which would allow anyone 21 and over with a gun license to carry firearms anywhere on public college or university campuses except dorm rooms, fraternity and sorority houses and sporting events. The law was passed along party lines in the state House and Senate and is now awaiting Deal’s signature to become law.
R.E.M. formed in Athens, Georgia in the early 1980s and spent three decades at the top of the alternative rock field before splitting up in 2011. Stipe has performed recently as a solo act to pay tribute to the late David Bowie.