I Sound Off on Georgia’s Campus-Carry Bill

Go here for a clip run on WABE 90.1 FM, the Atlanta public radio station, and the related article. They’re about lines 37 and 38 of Georgia’s HB 280, a bill that would allow guns on campus at Georgia’s public colleges and universities. You hear me for a big ten seconds.

Here’s the language at issue:

Not apply to faculty, staff, or administrative offices or rooms where disciplinary proceedings are conducted.

I’m not inclined to go into gruesome detail, but it’s a wonder of syntactic ambiguity. In 15 words it features three instances of syntactic ambiguity giving rise to eight different meanings. As usual, analysis offered by others was all over the place. There were three possible meanings. The serial comma played a role somehow. No and no.

I enjoyed chatting about it with Johnny Kauffman, the WABE reporter.

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.

5 thoughts on “I Sound Off on Georgia’s Campus-Carry Bill”

  1. Surely, we can avoid disputes on the meaning of the language by applying the canon of ejusdem generis. (said with a slightly wry smile)

  2. Ken:

    The obvious answer is interpretation through trial by combat.

    Side-benefit: it deters needless litigation.


  3. Solutions: 1.Enumeration, such as 1,2,3 or a,b,c; 2. Tabulation, to use enter key and rearrange order of wording.

  4. I haven’t tried to work out the eight possible meanings, but wonder whether the ones you found ring any changes on ‘are conducted’: are in the process of being conducted? Have ever been conducted? Are expected by reasonable persons to be conducted? Whether ever conducted there or not, are under a rule requiring that they be conducted there?

    Defense counsel for one charged under the law will have at hand a veritable arsenal of arguments.

    Have you broadened your portfolio to statutory drafting and legal writing in general?

    • You might have a point there, but it doesn’t relate to syntactic ambiguity, so it doesn’t count toward the eight meanings.

      No broadening of my portfolio, perish the thought. But I like a good train wreck.


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