“The House took a very clear position that the Second Amendment does not stop at the edge of a college campus.” — Georgia House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge)
On Monday, the state House in Georgia voted to legalize the carrying of concealed firearms on public school campuses.
House Bill 859, also called the Campus Safety Act, would enable anyone 21 years of age or older with a weapons license to carry their firearm on any public college campus – except in the dorms, frat and sorority houses or to athletic events. The law would also require that the firearms remain concealed since Georgia’s concealed carry permit requires fingerprinting and background checks.
While the vote easily passed, it didn’t sail through the House, as a large bloc of Democrats voted in opposition of the law.
State Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, led the charge for House Bill 859, a piece of legislation he has informally dubbed the state’s Campus Safety Act: “It’s a real world solution to a real world problem,” Jasperse said. “In today’s world, it’s a must.”
But in an hour-and-a-half debate before the 113-59 vote, House Democrats said the bill would allow the weapons with “no instruction, no training, no supervision,” said state Rep. Virgil Fludd, D-Tyrone. “We’re putting (students) in volatile situations with alcohol and hormones.”
One local student leader praised the new bill, arguing that students shouldn’t be forced to surrender their right to self-defense simply because they are going to college.
“This bill will give students an opportunity to be one step closer to being able to properly defend themselves,” said Ja’Quan Taylor, a Georgia Tech senior and president of the university’s Students for Concealed Carry chapter. “This could be the difference between life or death for a student that is being threatened by a deadly weapon.”
If the legislation is passed, Taylor, 21, said he plans to take advantage.
“Any opportunity that I am granted to better prepare and defend myself will always be taken,” he said.
While Democrats argued that the bill would make Georgia campuses a more dangerous place, Republicans countered that the majority of mass shootings happen in “gun free zones” like schools and college campuses. Republicans hope that making it easier for students to defend themselves will lead to fewer such violent attacks on our campuses. Representative John Meadows (R-Calhoun) made this exact argument in his defense of the HB 859, “Ninety-two percent of all the slaughters and mass killings were done on ‘no carry’ property. Ninety-three percent of all assaults carried out with a weapon are done with somebody who does not have a license and it’s illegal for them to carry. Would one person that had a license that was legally carrying could have made any difference? The answer is yes. Plain and simple.”
House Bill 859 still faces some hurdles, though, as it will now move on to the state Senate where Democrats have promised to fight hard against the bill. It’s also no “slam dunk” that Governor Nathan Deal (R-GA) will simply sign this bill into law. While Deal has been, in general, a defender of the 2nd Amendment, many gun rights advocates have questioned his support for the cause in the past. However, with such overwhelming support from Republicans in the House, it would be a major disappointment if HB 859 doesn’t soon become state law.