After five unsuccessful attempts to pass a bill to legalize campus carry, Georgia’s legislature is considering yet another measure to allow concealed weapons on public college campuses.
A similar campus carry bill was vetoed by Gov. Nathan Deal last year, but supporters are confident that a compromise may be reached with the governor’s office before the end of this legislative sessions, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“In the world in which I grew up, guns were just very commonplace,” state Rep. Mandi Ballinger, a Republican and a supporter of the bill, told the Journal-Constitution. “They were useful tools…like hoes, harrows and hedge clippers and anything else you might use to do something. I see a lot of people who tend to demonize them. I ask, have you ever shot a gun?”
When Deal vetoed the bill last year, he said that the state constitution and the Second Amendment does not guarantee the right to bear arms in “sensitive places,” and that “the inquiry should then focus on whether or not those places deserve to continue to be shielded from weapons as they are and have been for generations in our state.”
“It would be incorrect to conclude…that certain restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms are unconstitutional,” Deal said in his statement.
A poll conducted by AJC in January showed that 54 percent of people in Georgia do not want campus carry to be legal, but this number is down from previous years when more than two thirds of people said they do not support the measure.
All 50 states allow concealed carry with proper permitting, and the decision to allow campus carry is up to individual universities and colleges in 24 states. However, 17 states, including California, New York and North Carolina, ban campus carry outright, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Only in Utah is concealed campus carry completely legal, with limited regulations from the Utah State Board of Regents, based on the fact that universities are public entities and should have no authority to ban guns on campus.
In recent years, bans on campus carry have been overturned or modified to reflect the belief that only the legislature has the authority to regulate weapons in public places. For example, in 2012 the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that universities banning guns violates the Colorado concealed carry law. The Oregon Court of Appeals overturned university concealed carry bans in 2011. Also in 2011, Mississippi passed a law that allowed people with proper permitting and training to carry concealed weapons on all of its public campuses, while in 2014 Idaho allowed campus carry for people with “enhanced” permits.
Opponents of campus carry in Georgia cite an increase in gun violence on campuses as a reason the bill should not pass, but statistics show that there has been no increase in violent or gun related crimes for permitted, properly licensed gun owners in the states that have allowed campus carry.
Other arguments include a gun falling into the wrong hands if a dorm room is broken into or being improperly used if a classroom debate or argument escalates, but, “Licensed concealed carry has yet to turn a debate into shootout on any of the 150+ college campuses where it’s allowed,” and “There are numerous other options, from community gun lockups to small, private gun safes that can be secured to walls, floors, bed frames, etc.” to prevent against dorm theft, according to Students For Concealed Carry.
Supporters of the bill in Georgia hope Deal will move forward from his veto of the measure last year if a proper compromise is reached, but with University System leaders against any change to the law and a vocal opposition to campus carry in the state, according to the Journal-Constitution, the fate of the bill remains in question.