‘Campus carry’ gun bill advances in Georgia Legislature

A bill legalizing firearms on Georgia’s college campuses passed a key Senate panel on Monday, with no changes to where the legislation says college students could be allowed to carry guns.

The move makes House Bill 859 eligible for a floor vote in the Senate later this week, and sets up a scenario that could see final passage well before the Legislature ends its work this year on March 24. It also represents a power move on behalf of the Senate’s GOP leadership in an election year for all state lawmakers, since the Senate in years past has stopped similar measures.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s OK came as a television ad targeting efforts to legalize firearms on Georgia’s college campuses began airing in Atlanta over the weekend as opponents of the ‘campus carry’ effort tried to increase their pressure to stop it.

Everytown for Gun Safety, a national gun control group, sponsored the 30-second ad. Titled “Bad Decisions,” it focuses on whether students always use the proper judgment and responsibility — especially when alcohol is involved.

The legislation under consideration in Georgia 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.

HB 859 also would mandate that those weapons be concealed — something proponents say make it safer — since Georgia requires gun owners to apply for gun “carry” permits that require fingerprinting and background checks.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a three-hour hearing last week on the bill, hearing mostly from those opposed to it including Hank Huckaby, chancellor of the University System of Georgia, who said he had concerns about students’ maturity and safety on campus.

Gov. Nathan Deal, however, has dismissed those arguments as lacking “validity,” and the legislation also has the backing from leaders of both chambers of the Legislature.

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