Nathan Deal keeps the door open for campus carry measure

Gov. Nathan Deal has kept the door open for legislation that would legalize firearms on the state’s college campuses despite his vigorous veto of the legislation last year.

The Republican said this week he is continuing to have conversations with the House supporters on the legislation, House Bill 280, though he did not elaborate on his concerns with the measure.

“We’re receptive to continuing to talk with them, and hopefully they’re receptive to making some additional changes,” he said. “Perhaps. But whether they do or don’t, that’s their decision.”

Shortly after last year’s measure passed, Deal sent hand-written notes to House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle urging them to exempt on-campus child care facilities, faculty or administrative office space and disciplinary meetings in a separate measure.

Both declined to make changes, and Deal invoked an opinion by the late Justice Antonin Scalia that described colleges as “sanctuaries of learning where firearms have not been allowed” in his veto message.

This year’s measure, sponsored by state Rep. Mandi Ballinger, would allow those 21 and older with a Georgia weapons permit to carry concealed weapons on to most parts of college campuses. It bans guns from on-campus preschools, but it doesn’t include the other exemptions that Deal once demanded.

It passed by a 108-63 vote, largely along party lines, and now is pending in the Senate.

House Speaker David Ralston said of the governor that lawmakers tried to be “accommodating to him and his concerns.” When asked on Friday why it didn’t address all of Deal’s concerns from last year, Ralston pointed to the process.

“This is the will of the House of Representatives, by a very clear margin, after a bill that has gone through an extensive, very detailed process going back to April of last year,” he said. “What you saw today was a product of a lot of the discussions.”

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.