Campus gun bill passes Georgia House Public Safety Committee

College students with concealed weapons licenses are one step closer to carrying firearms on most parts of public campuses.

The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee voted Monday to pass House Bill 280, which would allow anyone with a concealed weapons permit to carry firearms on public college and university campuses, with the exception of inside dormitories, fraternity and sorority houses, and buildings used for athletic events. The bill also would require guns to be concealed and only those who hold a permit would be allowed to carry the weapons.

"This bill is about changing the dynamic" to provide the "basic, essential right of self-preservation" said state Rep. Mandi Ballinger, R-Canton, the bill's sponsor.

The legislation is a near replica of a bill Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed last year that would have also allowed weapons into an on-campus child care center. Ballinger's bill specifically prohibits gun owners from carrying firearms into preschool space.

University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley testified before lawmakers Feb. 20 in opposition to the bill.

“With respect to campus carry, we feel strongly current law strikes the right balance to provide security on our campuses,” Wrigley said. “We, therefore, respectfully oppose any change to current law.”

State Rep. Gloria Frazier pushed back against the bill Monday, asking, "How will campus police be able to discern between a good guy and a bad guy?"

Ballinger responded, “How can they discern now?”