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Georgia governor rejects bill for 'campus carry' of concealed weapons at colleges statewide

By Doug G. Ware
Georgia governor rejects bill for 'campus carry' of concealed weapons at colleges statewide
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal on Tuesday vetoed legislation that would have made it legal for licensed firearm holders to carry guns on college campuses statewide, such as the University of Georgia in Athens (pictured). Deal cited concerns with the safety of children, who frequent the campuses, as one reason he rejected the bill. File Photo by Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

ATLANTA, May 3 (UPI) -- Citing various concerns, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal on Tuesday rejected a piece of legislation that would have made it legal for licensed persons to carry concealed firearms on campuses statewide.

Lawmakers sent House Bill 859 to Deal's desk in March, where the governor had 40 days to accept or reject it. Deal decided on the latter.

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The proposed law did have restrictions, but the governor said he felt it posed too great a danger because adult age students aren't the only ones affected. Grade school and high school students, he said, also frequently visit campuses, and some include daycare centers.

"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 wrote in a statement Tuesday, which outlined 15 vetoes of other legislation.

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In issuing the veto, Deal cited an 1824 case during the establishment of the University of Virginia in which officials decided to bar students from "keeping or using weapons or arms of any kind." Former presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were part of that decision.

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"The approval of these specific prohibitions relating to 'campus carry' by the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and the principal author of the United States Constitution should not only dispel any vestige of Constitutional privilege but should illustrate that having college campuses free of weapons has great historical precedent," Deal wrote.

Deal, who took some criticism for vetoing a "religious freedom" bill in March, signed a law in 2014 that expanded areas licensed gun carriers could go. However, he said, a free "campus carry" law would go too far.

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"While there have been alarming incidents of criminal conduct on college campuses in which students have been victimized during the past two years, do those acts justify such a radical departure from the classification of colleges as "sensitive areas" where weapons are not allowed?" he asked in the statement. "The presumed justification is the need for students to provide their own self-protection against such criminal conduct. However, since students who are under 21 years of age would be ineligible to avail themselves of such protection under the terms of HB 859, it is safe to assume that a significant portion of the student body would be unarmed."

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Gun rights groups, though, have promised to revive the bill next year, calling it an "important safety measure."

"We agreed with Governor Deal when he said that the arguments against the campus safety bill lacked validity," NRA spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen said. "He was right then, but he is wrong today."

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