ATLANTA -- In the coming days, the state Senate could schedule a vote on what's been a heated debate this year: carrying handguns on college campuses. But a House member is getting support for his move to open campuses to a different weapon.
Post-secondary students could pack electroshock weapons -- often known by the trade name Taser or "stun guns" -- with their textbooks and calculators under state Rep. Buzz Brockway's House Bill 792.
"We specify it is for personal protection," Brockway said at a Senate committee hearing on his bill Tuesday at the Capitol. He said it is important to emphasize the self-defense point because the weapons are not toys.
Brockway said he intends for stun guns to be an alternative for college and technical school students who want to protect themselves but who are not old enough or do not want to carry a handgun on campus.
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It's not that they can carry a gun on their public college campuses just yet. That would happen only if another bill, House Bill 859, becomes law. If approved, that bill would open parts of college campuses, including libraries and classrooms, but not housing or athletic events, to licensed concealed carry. Those licenses are only available to members of the military or people 21 and older.
The University System of Georgia opposes the gun bill.
Brockway, like most of his House Republican colleagues, voted in favor of the gun bill when it passed the state House last month.
His stun gun bill also passed the House on roughly partisan lines: Republicans for and Democrats against.
Critics have said that while they're not regular guns, stun guns are still dangerous.
"There have been instances where the use of these -- particularly with people with existing medical issues -- have proven to be deadly, and in other instances as well," said state Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, at the Tuesday committee hearing.
Fort said he thought it would be productive to limit the ability to legally carry stun guns to those 21 and older.
The Senate Judiciary Committee amended the stun gun bill to apply to people 18 and older, or students of any age, before they passed it in a non-unanimous voice vote. It could come for a floor vote as early as next week.
To contact writer Maggie Lee, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.