It was May 3, 2016 when Gov. Nathan Deal pulled out his veto pen and struck a note for common sense by using his power to stop House Bill 859, better known as the campus carry legislation, from becoming law. He wrote, ““If the intent of HB 859 is to increase safety of students on college campuses, it is highly questionable that such would be the result.”
HB 859 was not the only veto Deal issued that day. There were 15 others, but two with the longest explanations had to do with guns, HB 859 and HB 1060. This bill tried to get around a provision in a previously passed and signed bill, HB 60, that allowed for carrying weapons into houses of worship, even a “long gun.” Prior to HB 60 it was a criminal act to carry a gun into a house of worship. In HB 60, it was still a criminal act, “unless the governing body or authority of the place of worship permits the carrying of weapons or long guns by license holders...”
Deal pointed out in his veto message that HB 1060, tried to get around that restriction by making it a penalty to carry a gun in a house of worship only if carrier refused to leave “upon personal notification by such place of worship that he or she is carrying a weapon or long gun” that didn’t permit them.
HB 859 would have allowed anyone with a valid carry permit to tote a concealed weapon on any state college or university campus in every building and facility with a few exceptions. This law would have also applied to any public technical school, vocational school, or other public institution of post-secondary education.
But the bill was resurrected this year in the form of House Bill 280, sponsored by Rep. Mandi Ballinger, R-Canton, with one important difference. One of Deal’s stated objections last year was that it allowed guns to be carried in daycare centers run by a number of colleges and universities. HB 280 excludes the right to carry from those areas but the rest of the bill is pretty much the same. It does still bar weapons from athletic events, student dormitories, fraternity and sorority houses, but not from classrooms, labs, administrative offices, including those offices of instructors. And even with the daycare exclusions, the onus for compliance is put on the institutions. The bill says in the portion where it excludes child care centers, that if the school does not advertise “that such preschool space is designated for operations licensed or regulated under Article 1 of Chapter 1A of Title 20 that the exclusion doesn’t apply, and it doesn’t apply if the “public institution of post-secondary education has more than three buildings on the campus housing preschool space.”
Just as the 2016 version, the college and university presidents have voiced their opposition to allowing guns on their campuses backed by every police chief in the University of Georgia system. The USG Chancellor Steve Wrigley, said during his appearance before the House Public Safety Committee, “With respect to campus carry, we feel strongly current law strikes the right balance to provide security on our campuses. We therefore respectfully oppose any change to current law.”
Of course the committee wasn’t listening and passed HB 280. It passed the full House on March 3, 108-63. Now it’s on to the Senate where it will probably pass unless there are more adults in the room than last year.
Do these lawmakers understand that having guns on college campuses is an ideological stance that can have real life and death consequences? What about having an armed student in a classroom, pouting over a bad grade or a recent breakup? That said, it leaves it up to the governor, once again, to exhibit common sense and be one of the only adults left standing in the room. Fortunately, he’s still armed with a veto pen. We encourage him to use it, if it comes to that.