Pressure grows as Georgia’s governor considers ‘campus carry’ gun bill

Groups both for and against a measure to allow college students to carry concealed guns onto Georgia’s public campuses are increasing their efforts to influence Gov. Nathan Deal, who must decide by May 3 whether House Bill 859 should become law.

Gun control advocates this week launched a Twitter campaign using the hashtag “#VetoHB859” to urge Deal to veto the legislation. Many of those tweeting appear to be college students or faculty who expressed concerns over the legislation’s intent to allow guns into college classrooms and common areas, including on-campus daycare centers.

More famous supporters of the veto effort also supporting the campaign include Michael Stipe of REM, whose photo went up Thursday on the band’s official Twitter account holding a sign saying: “I support gun-free campuses for Georgia. Anything else is stupid.”

The National Rifle Association, however, strongly supports what it has called a “campus safety” bill. The association, which endorsed Deal for reelection two years ago, is urging its members and supporters to contact the governor to ask him to sign it into law. In an email blast to members last week, the NRA told supporters their effort was important because it did not want Deal to “bow to elitists who don’t support your right to self-defense.”

The legislation 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 four places: dormitories, fraternities and sorority houses, and at athletic events. HB 859 also mandates that weapons be concealed — something proponents say makes it safer — since Georgia requires gun owners to apply for gun “carry” permits that include fingerprinting and background checks.

State lawmakers passed the bill in March. Deal, while not saying what he planned to do with the bill, has since said he was concerned that HB 859 did not also exempt from the legislation on-campus child care facilities, faculty or administrative office space and disciplinary hearings.

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