While the guns on campus bill sailed through the House, it’s encountering greater resistance on its journey over to the Senate. Passage in both chambers of the General Assembly is necessary for a bill to become a law.
House Bill 512, the Safe Carry Protection Act, would permit guns in in bars, churches, parts of college campuses and into unsecured government buildings, including courthouses.
The bill was opposed by the chancellor of the University System of Georgia. “I am suggesting that adding loaded weapons to an already potentially volatile mix of youthful exuberance, stress, and yes, at times alcohol and other factors, could lead to a tragedy of our own making that we could otherwise avoid,” Chancellor Hank Huckaby told lawmakers.
He didn’t make much headway with them. The bill won overwhelming approval in the House last week, passing 117-56, largely along party lines.
The bill’s success in the House appears to have energized opponents, according to the AJC’s Laura Diamond and Kristina Torres:
Members of the state Board of Regents, which governs the state’s powerful University System of Georgia, took an unusually public stance Tuesday in opposition to HB 512: All 18 members signed a formal letter to legislative leaders and Deal saying they were “deeply concerned” about the bill.
“We firmly believe the current law promotes a safe learning environment for our students and working environment for our faculty and staff,” the letter said. “Our unanimous recommendation is to retain the law in its current form. We kindly ask the legislature to consider our request.”
Deal, through a spokesman, offered support only for one portion of the bill aimed at strengthening the rules about how people with mental illness qualify for a weapons “carry” license. “It expands the population who will be flagged by an instant background check, which the governor believes will protect innocent Georgians,” Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said.
Georgia judges have also begun to speak out.
“We deal at times with very emotional situations,” including murder cases when families of the deceased and the accused face off in court, said David Emerson, president of the Georgia Council of Superior Court Judges and a Superior Court judge in Douglas County.
Emerson said he is aware that while the law forbids guns from being taken into courthouses, the legislation would allow an exception by licensed holders when there is no security guard there during business hours.
“This opens the door for someone to go in and leave a weapon for someone at a later time,” he said.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog