The Georgia Senate passed the campus carry bill today, keeping the controversial measure alive in these last days of the Legislature.
House Bill 280 permits anyone with a concealed weapons permit to carry firearms on public college and university campuses, with the exception of dorms, fraternity and sorority houses, and buildings used for athletic events. On-campus child care centers would also be excluded unless there are more than three child care sites on the campus. (Here is a great MyAJC.com story on the debate around the bill.)
It may fall to Gov. Nathan Deal to act on behalf of students and parents who don’t want the state’s public colleges open to guns. Deal vetoed a similar campus carry measure last year, saying, “From the early days of our nation and state, colleges have been treated as sanctuaries of learning where firearms have not been allowed. To depart from such time honored protections should require overwhelming justification. I do not find that such justification exists.”
With just two days left in this year’s legislative session, officials say lawmakers are negotiating with Deal’s office over a potential compromise before the session is gaveled to a close Thursday.
Supporters say allowing guns on campus would give students a chance to protect themselves without interfering with their peers, since the bill requires their weapon to be concealed. It is an added measure, they say, to counter criminals who may also bring a gun onto campus.
Still, critics say allowing guns on campus would create an unsafe environment for students and faculty. They’ve also cited national studies including one released last fall by the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health that concluded the presence of guns would likely lead to more shootings, killings and suicides on campus, especially among students.
With the 32-22 vote, the bill goes back to the House for review. With time running short in the session, many at the Capitol expect the House to disagree and send the bill into final negotiations involving a conference committee.
In a statement following Senate passage of the campus carry bill, the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students said:
This year, we have been gratified to see that there is an exclusion for Child Care on campus — but we believe that limiting the exemption to instances when there are three or fewer buildings housing preschool space is arbitrary and unnecessary. Moreover, this limitation is confusing. If a campus has four buildings housing pre-school space, does that mean that the exemption applies to three of the four – or that the exemption applies to none of the spaces? There is no similar limit to the number of campus dorms, fraternities or sororities. Why is this limit on buildings necessary for child care?
In addition, the bill’s exemption only applies to childcare programs that are licensed or regulated by the Department of Early Care and Learning. Currently, there are a small handful of early learning programs on just a few college campuses that are exempt from licensing. The Department of Early Care and Learning only regulates those programs if they accept childcare subsidies under the caps program.