By Blake Neff
Georgia’s Republican governor vetoed a bill that would have legalized concealed carry on college campuses statewide, rejecting the measure after legislative Republicans refused to introduce certain exceptions he wanted.
Campus carry is already the law in several states, and Georgia’s Republican legislature hoped to join with House Bill 859. The bill would allow anybody aged 21 and over to carry a gun anywhere on a public college campus, except inside dormitories, fraternities and athletic events.
Gov. Nathan Deal had suggested he was open to the bill, saying before its passage fears it would create a “Wild West” environment on campus were overblown. But after the bill’s passage, Deal responded by asking legislators to amend the bill and add new exceptions to it, such as a ban on guns in office spaces or childcare facilities. Legislative Republicans refused to alter the law, though. Deal also faced significant pressure from the state’s college presidents, who urged him to veto the measure.
On Tuesday, Deal granted their wish and vetoed the bill.
“If the intent of HB 859 is to increase safety of students on college campuses, it is highly questionable that such would be the result,” Deal said in his veto message. “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.”
If lawmakers want to prevent gun-related crimes on campus, Deal said, they should consider increasing criminal penalties for carrying a gun illegally on campus.
Republicans will not be able to override Deal’s veto, since the legislature has already adjourned for the year.
It isn’t the first time Deal has alienated members of the Republican base in Georgia. In March, he vetoed a religious liberty law that would have provided legal protection to business owners who oppose gay marriage.
Deal’s decision to veto contrasts with Gov. Bill Haslam’s decision in neighboring Tennessee. On Monday, Haslam allowed a campus carry bill to become law without his signature, saying he disliked the bill but was not willing to block it.