Georgia House committee hears 'campus carry' debate

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Members of the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee held off on a vote on the controversial “campus carry” bill Monday.

House Bill 280 would allow licensed gun owners to carry firearms onto Georgia's public college, technical school and vocational school campuses.  To be eligible for a carry permit in Georgia, applicants must be at least 21 years old and pass a background check.

WATCH: Hear what lawmaker say about the bill in their own words

“This would offer them at least the ability to choose,” Rep. Mandi Ballinger, R-Canton, explained in a committee hearing Monday afternoon.  “It's a choice and it's one that we hope would change the dynamic and make students safer on Georgia's campuses.” 

Governor Nathan Deal vetoed a similar measure last year and expressed concerns publicly about the safety of on-campus daycare centers as well as dual-enrollment students if guns were allowed on campus.

“From the early days of our nation and state, colleges have been treated as sanctuaries of learning where firearms have not been allowed. To depart from such time-honored protections should require overwhelming justification. I do not find that such justification exists,” Deal wrote in his veto statement of House Bill 859.

Ballinger and other supporters of the 2017 bill feel they have addressed those concerns by adding on-campus preschools to the list of places guns would still be prohibited.

“You would be allowed into that kind of common waiting area for your child to come out,” Rep. Ballinger said. “But you would not be allowed past that point.” 

Opponents, however, said they still have many of the same concerns as last year including the maturity of college students to handle firearms and the potential mix of guns and alcohol.

In Deal's veto, he announced the issuance of an Executive Order requiring both the Technical College System of Georgia and the Chancellor of the University System of Georgia to compile reports detailing their on campus security measures.

Chancellor Steve Wrigley said they have implemented active shooter training for campus police, created mutual-aid agreements with local law enforcement agencies and will increase police officers on campus by six percent.

“With respect to campus carry, we feel strongly that current law strikes the right balance to create a safe environment on our campuses,” Wrigley told the committee.

Committee Chairman Alan Powell said the group will vote soon on whether to approve HB 280.

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