The state House voted Monday to legalize carrying concealed guns on Georgia’s college campuses.
State Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, led the charge for House Bill 859, a piece of legislation he has informally dubbed the state’s Campus Safety Act: “It’s a real world solution to a real world problem,” Jasperse said. “In today’s world, it’s a must.”
But in an hour-and-a-half debate before the 113-59 vote, House Democrats said the bill would allow the weapons with “no instruction, no training, no supervision,” said state Rep. Virgil Fludd, D-Tyrone. “We’re putting (students) in volatile situations with alcohol and hormones.”
HB 859 would allow anyone 21 or older with a weapons license to carry a gun anywhere on a public college or university campus, except for inside dormitories, fraternities and sorority houses, and at athletic events. It also would mandate that those weapons be concealed — something proponents say make it safer — since Georgia requires gun owners to apply for “concealed carry” permits that require fingerprinting and background checks.
Recent events close to the Georgia Capitol, however, have added to the latest push. A few blocks from the Capitol building, robberies at Georgia State University’s downtown campus library — committed within weeks of each other, with two occurring on the same day — have increased support among some students and lawmakers for campus carry.
The state’s Board of Regents, which regulates the state’s 29 public colleges and universities, has long opposed campus carry, and it has successfully blocked previous attempts to allow guns on campuses. The most recent attempt came in 2014 when the state House voted to legalize campus carry as part of a broader effort dubbed the “Guns Everywhere Bill.” The Senate, however, stripped the campus carry language out of the bill before passage.
With Monday’s House passage, HB 859 now goes to the state Senate for consideration.