May 4 (UPI) -- Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, who vetoed similar legislation last year, signed a bill Thursday allowing college students to carry concealed weapons on campus.
"At the present time, assailants can, and do, target these students knowing full well that their victims are not permitted to carry protection," he said. "Unfortunately, in parts of the state, the path to higher education travels through dangerous territory."
The law takes effect in July.
In his 2016 veto, Deal said it was "highly questionable" that the bill would make students safer.
Gun rights groups revived the bill as an "important safety measure." Deal reconsidered when lawmakers included his request to ban guns from on-campus child care facilities, faculty and administrative offices, dormitories and disciplinary meetings.
Critics said allowing guns on campus will lead to more killings and suicides.
"This flip-flop will be what Georgians remember about our governor for years to come – that he bent to the Washington gun lobby," said Lindsey Donovan, who leads the Georgia chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. "This will be the legacy he leaves behind."
Georgia is the second state this year to pass a campus carry law, after Arkansas. At least 10 states allow firearms on campus and nearly 20 bills were introduced by state lawmakers across the nation last year.
In 2007, Utah was the first state to allow college students to carry guns on campus. Later that year, a shooter at Virginia Tech killed more than 30 people on campus, prompting many U.S. universities to take additional security measures.