This week, Georgia's governor vetoed a bill that would have allowed concealed handguns on college campuses. The proposal easily passed the state legislature controlled by Republicans.
"From the early days of our nation and state, colleges have been treated as sanctuaries of learning where firearms have not been allowed," Georgia Governor Nathan Deal said of the measure. "To depart from such time-honored protections should require overwhelming justification. I do not find that such justification exists."
The bill would have authorized anyone 21 and over to carry a concealed handgun with the proper permit on public colleges and university campuses. After the bill's passage in through the state legislature, Deal, a Republican, asked lawmakers to pass follow-up bills addressing concerns about on-campus daycare centers, spaces where high schools students take college-level courses, and where disciplinary hearings are held. The Republican legislators refused to consider these concerns, prompting the governor's veto.
Ryan Phillips of the Washington Post writes that the National Rifle Association (NRA) was extraordinarily active in lobbying lawmakers and public opinion behind the bill. It expressed its displeasure with the governor's decision, saying students have a "constitutional right to self-defense on campus." Georgia House Speaker David Ralston also expressed his disappointment with the bill's failure.
"At a time when our Second Amendment rights are under attack, I believed and still believe that it is very important that we do all that is necessary and proper to strengthen our constitutional protections," Speaker Ralston said in a statement.
Opposition to the bill, however, vastly outpaced its support. The governing board of the University System of Georgia opposed the measure, and all of Georgia's 29 public university and college presidents, along with their police chiefs, voiced their opposition against the bill, now known as the "campus carry" law. The bill also garnered unanimous disapproval from state Democrats. Fox News reports that the bill's opponents credit faculty members, students, and campus administrators for waging a successful campaign against the measure.
Critics said that considering the presence of alcohol at parties and tailgates, the bill would have raised the specter of tragedy. According to Emanuella Grinberg of CNN, alternative rock icon Michael Stipe of R.E.M. wrote an impassioned op-ed for USA Today against the measure. Having met his bandmates at the University of Georgia, Stipe worried how campus life would have changed if the bill became law. Gun control activists are touting the failure of the bill as a major victory.
To date, nine states have laws allowing concealed handguns on campuses: Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Texas, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin, whereas 19 states, including Georgia, ban concealed weapons on campus.
Governor Deal, a vocal supporter of gun rights, also vetoed a separate measure that would have allowed citizens to carry weapons and long guns into churches. This measure would have amended Georgia state law, which currently prohibits guns in places of worship. Governor Deal said that the proposals "breach a compromise" that protects religious institutions and places of learning from weapons.