All 18 members of the Georgia University Board of Regents signed a statement Tuesday, declaring that the current gun laws best serve the interests and safety of students, faculty and staff in the university system. The statement was also supported by the system’s 31 college and university presidents. They are opposed to a section of House Bill 512, which would allow weapons to be carried on college campuses.
“We are deeply concerned about proposed legislation in the Georgia General Assembly that would permit firearms on our campuses — in our classrooms, student centers and our academic and administrative buildings,” the regents’ letter said. “We firmly believe the current law promotes a safe learning environment for our students and working environment for our faculty and staff. Our unanimous recommendation is to retain the law in its current form. We kindly ask that the legislature consider our request.”
Brad Robinson, spokesman for Gov. Nathan Deal’s office, said Wednesday that the governor doesn’t comment on pending legislation.
“The governor has only addressed one portion of the bill,” Robinson said. “That part would better flag people deemed an imminent danger to themselves or others in background checks.”
All of Carroll County’s state House members voted for HB 512, which passed by a 117-56 vote. The bill is now in the Senate Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. In addition to allowing guns on college campuses, it would allow carry permit holders to carry their weapons into bars, churches, non-secure airport areas, certain government buildings and several other public places. Current law allows college students to only store weapons in locked cars on campus.
One of the bill’s local supporters, District 18 Rep. Kevin Cooke, R-Carrollton, was unwavering Wednesday in his belief in the legislation.
“The Board of Regents is as entitled to their opinion, as any other organization, but I remain committed to supporting HB 512,” Cooke told the Times-Georgian by email. “It is important to remind Georgians that the campus carry provision is limited to carry and conceal permit holders who are over the age of 21. Carrying is prohibited in housing facilities and at athletic events.
“This is an attempt by the Board of Regents to limit the Second Amendment rights of carry and conceal permit holders to protect themselves on campuses. The issue here is simple. The Board of Regents is charged with the oversight of Georgia’s public universities and colleges. As elected officials, part of our job is make laws and set policy to protect the liberties of our constituents.”
Legislation passed in 2010 added places where permit holders could carry weapons, but specifically excluded churches, colleges and schools.
House Bill 512 has the support of the gun rights group, Georgia Carry.org, which has been working since 2010 to expand areas where guns can be taken.
James Camp of Temple, a GeorgiaCarry.org founder, said after HB 512 passed the House that he was happy with the majority of the bill’s provisions.
“It does go to great lengths to restore Second Amendment rights, especially to people who have carry rights and would be able to carry weapons more places, especially college campuses,” Camp said on March 8. “It’s a step in the right direction.”
However, Camp said he does has an issue with an amendment added by the Rules Committee that allows a law enforcement officer who feels someone poses a threat to submit the person’s name to the national instant criminal check system and stop that person from buying a weapon or getting a carry permit.
“It disqualifies them, just on somebody’s word,” he said. “It denies them due process since there’s no court or judge to look at the facts. GeorgiaCarry will try to get that amendment removed from the Senate bill.”