Gun bill continues toward final passage

The effort to let Georgians carry concealed weapons in more places took another step forward Friday as the House approved the latest version of a gun bill.

Senate Bill 101, as amended in the House, will allow churches to decide if concealed-weapon permit holders may bring weapons into sanctuaries and will allow guns on most areas of public college campuses.

It passed the House by a vote of 116-55 and must now go back to the Senate.

“This bill is for our residents,” said Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, the House sponsor. “Responsible citizens of Georgia that work hard and play by our rules.”

The House and Senate have both passed gun bills this year, with the House taking a much more sweeping approach. The Senate has yet to act on the House’s gun legislation.

During the House debate Friday, the only opposition came from a Republican. Rep. Charles Gregory, R-Kennesaw, argued that a Republican-controlled chamber should be able to pass a better gun bill.

“If this is the best gun bill we can collectively come up with, we should be embarrassed,” Gregory said.

Gregory said many gun-rights supporters believe lawmakers are “playing games with their God-given rights” because the bill does not go far enough to allow people to carry weapons where they want.

Democrats did not move to block the bill or speak against it.

The House vote sets the stage for the issue to be decided in the final three days of the legislative session. A conference committee of House and Senate negotiators is likely to be appointed to try to find compromise.

Perhaps the most contentious issue is the so-called campus-carry provision allowing weapons on public college campuses, with the exception of athletic events, dorms and fraternity and sorority houses. Gov. Nathan Deal has made it known he and the Board of Regents do not support the idea, but the House has now twice voted in favor of campus carry.

Sen. Frank Ginn, R-Danielsville, the author of SB 101, said campus carry is a “delicate issue.” Ginn describes himself as a “strong 2nd Amendment rights person,” but also said he and University System Chancellor Hank Huckaby were roommates when Ginn was a freshman lawmaker. The two are still friends and, Ginn said, “I want to make sure we try to show him respect and we’ll try to make sure we move forward with good legislation.”

Staff writer Kristina Torres contributed.