House panel backs bill legalizing guns on Georgia’s college campuses

A "campus carry" bill that would legalize firearms on Georgia's college campuses passed a key House committee Tuesday, after the chairman unexpectedly added the bill to his panel's agenda with little notice.

House Bill 859 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.

Supporters said eight states allow campus carry, and nearly two dozen others allow individual schools to decide.

In Georgia, however, allowing guns on campus has long been opposed by the powerful University System of Georgia and leaders of the state’s universities and colleges over concerns about students’ maturity and safety on campus.

Efforts to legalize guns on campus have a long history at the Capitol. The most recent attempt came in 2014, when the state House voted to legalize campus carry as part of a broader effort dubbed the "Guns Everywhere Bill." The Senate, however, stripped the campus carry language out of the bill before passage.

Tuesday's vote by the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee came as Democrats protested Chairman Alan Powell's decision to consider the bill without telling them ahead of time. It sends the bill to the House Rules Committee, which decides when or if bills receive a floor vote in the chamber.