Atlanta, GA (AP) – Anyone licensed to carry a gun in Georgia could carry concealed handguns on public college campuses under a bill passed Monday by the Georgia House Of Representatives.
Athletic facilities and student housing, including sorority and fraternity houses, would be exempt.
The state’s powerful Board of Regents, which governs the University System of Georgia, has long opposed changes to existing law that prevents weapons on its campuses.
The House passed the bill, HB 859, by a vote of 113-59, despite that objection.
Several recent armed robberies at the library on the Georgia State University campus in downtown Atlanta renewed backers’ argument for carrying on campuses. State Representative Rick Jasperse (R-Gordon, Murray, Pickens Counties), the bill’s sponsor, said the change would prevent Georgians from becoming victims of crime on college or university campuses.
“We can put our heads in the sand and say nothing is happening but the numbers don’t lie,” Jasperse said.
Existing law requires license applicants to be at least 21 years old and complete a background check; people are ineligible based on hospitalization for mental health or alcohol or drug abuse in the last five years or because of conviction for certain felonies or misdemeanors.
Democrats argued that higher education officials should make campus security decisions, not lawmakers. State Representative Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates) said the change would breed “fear and paranoia” among students on campuses.
“No one needs a PhD to understand that introducing guns among binge-drinking, drug-using, hormone-raging college students is not good policy,” Drenner said.
The bill now goes to the state Senate for review, where its chances are unclear.
A law approved in 2014 expanding where Georgians can carry guns included college campuses when it first passed the House. But the Senate removed that provision before its own approval of the bill.
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