Deal defends ‘campus carry’ bill

Gov. Nathan Deal and House Speaker David Ralston on Monday defended legislation to legalize firearms on college campuses, with the governor saying the existing argument against it “lacks validity.”

House Bill 859, passed by the state House last week, would allow anyone 21 or older with a weapons license to carry a gun at a public college or university campus. Dormitories, fraternity and sorority houses and athletic events would be excluded.

Critics of campus carry argue the legislation could potentially create unsafe environments for students and faculty.

In an interview Monday, Deal said the same arguments were made in 2014 when he signed legislation that vastly expanded where Georgians can legally carry firearms.

“We heard all the hype that we’re now hearing about campus carry, all the predictions of tragedies. All the predictions that we were going to open our state up to a Wild West scenario,” the governor said.

Those earlier fears don’t appear to have come true, Deal said.

“So, therefore, to use those kind of arguments with the campus carry discussion, I think lacks validity,” he said.

In the 2014 gubernatorial campaign, Deal said he did “not believe we need guns in college areas where alcohol is being consumed and where there are ball games and things of that nature.”

Some college and university officials oppose campus carry, saying it would give stressed-out students access to guns and add to their security costs.

When asked, Deal dismissed those arguments.

“I think they should be concerned about making sure that those students are taught and educated,” he said. “That’s their responsibility. The law will take care of the rest of it.”

Ralston, a Blue Ridge Republican, met Monday with Reps. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, and Mandi Ballinger, R-Canton, along with a lobbyist for a leading gun-rights group.

“The Speaker ardently supports the rights of law-abiding Georgians to protect themselves and enjoy outdoor pursuits like hunting and shooting sports,” Ralston spokesman Kaleb McMichen told the AJC. “The House Republican Caucus remains committed to protecting the interests of responsible gun owners and we encourage the Senate to consider and pass the Campus Safety Act and get it to Governor Deal’s desk.”

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