ATLANTA ― Days after Georgia lawmakers approved a bill lifting a weapons ban on the state’s public college campuses, on Monday Republican Gov. Nathan Deal called for the General Assembly to address opponents’ concerns.
Deal;s office released a statement asking for fixes and indicated that he could refuse to sign the so-called “campus carry” without quick action from lawmakers.
“As a lifetime defender and staunch supporter of Second Amendment rights, Gov. Deal has signed every pro-gun bill to reach his desk,” the statement began. “However, he believes legitimate points have been made in regards to certain aspects of the ‘campus carry’ bill and he calls on the General Assembly to address these concerns in related legislation.”
The statement says Deal wants lawmakers to act before wrapping this year’s session. Lawmakers are set to adjourn for the year March 24 and have only four working days remaining to put bills to a floor vote.
There are legislative options that would allow lawmakers to make Deal’s requested changes, but House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, indicated in a statement that the governor should take the lead.
“I certainly take any concerns Governor Deal raises seriously, but now that the bill is on his desk and with only four days remaining in the legislative session, time is of the essence,” Ralston said. “I am sure his team will forward specific recommendations to allow adequate time for consideration.”
The state Senate on Friday sent Deal the bill allowing licensed gun owners who are 21 and older to carry concealed weapons on public college campuses.
Athletic facilities and student housing, including fraternity and sorority houses, are exempt.
Supporters, including the National Rifle Association and the nonprofit pro-gun group Georgia Carry, argued that gun-free campuses are targets and said people licensed to carry had a right to defend themselves while on the property.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, seven other states now allow people to carry concealed weapons on college campuses: Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin. Effective Aug. 1, the University of Texas in Austin will allow concealed handguns in school buildings and classrooms, with the exception of dorms.
The NCSL says 23 states leave the decision to ban or allow weapons up to the individual colleges and universities, and 19 states ― including Georgia ― currently ban concealed weapons on campuses.
The statement from Deal’s office specifically asks for solutions to concerns about K-12 students who attend advanced classes on university or college campuses and day care centers on public college property.
He also wants officials who oversee the university and technical college systems to be able to make their own “reasonable rules” for access to spaces where disciplinary hearings are held or faculty and administration have offices.
“Addressing these issues is an important step in ensuring the safety and freedoms of students, faculty and staff in our institutions of higher learning throughout our state,” Deal’s statement said.
The powerful Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s university system, staunchly opposed the measure. But that didn’t slow its progress through the General Assembly, passing with nearly unanimous support from Republican lawmakers who control both chambers.
Messages with a spokesman for Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and phone and email messages to the bill’s House sponsors weren’t immediately returned late Monday.