Early last week, Georgia Representative Mandi Ballinger filed House Bill (HB) 280, officially resuscitating Georgia’s version of what is commonly known as “campus carry.” Should HB 280 pass, any individual could carry a handgun into a classroom or around campus, so long as they are 21 years of age and have a concealed carry license. For individuals who have military experience, the minimum age is 18.
The bill’s reintroduction comes after Governor Nathan Deal’s veto of last year’s version, HB 859, after expressing his concern over the lack of exemptions for on-campus day care facilities and offices of college professors. HB 280 partially addressed this issue by including day care facilities in the list of prohibited spaces for concealed carry; thus far, this list includes property used for athletic events and student housing, including fraternities and sororities. Rep. Ballinger reported to 11 Alive that she left professors’ offices spaces out of the bill.
“At times some college professors made unwanted advances toward female students,” Ballinger said, making clear that she did not want to leave students defenseless in similar situations.
Tensions over campus carry last year manifested in large demonstrations of student activism, both in support and in opposition of the bill. Students from Tech, the University of Georgia, Georgia State University, and other Georgia colleges organized social media campaigns, petitions and protests that urged the legislature and Gov. Deal to vote the bill down.
Georgia faculty also took part in opposition through participation in Facebook groups, speaking at committee hearings, and in some cases threatening to leave their institutions should the bill pass.
Proponents of campus carry claim that students will better be able to protect themselves if they encounter a dangerous situation on campus, while opponents claim that guns have no place on campus and could complicate already dangerous situations.
Last year, anecdotes of students trapped in dangerous situations in Georgia were used in support of HB 859, most notably the case of an armed robbery in Georgia State University’s library. Currently, Georgia Law allows both handguns and rifles in student vehicles.
HB 280 was heard on Wednesday in the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee alongside seven other gun-related bills, though no votes were taken. Rep. Keisha Waites (D-60) spoke on HB 334, a bill that would prohibit individuals with temporary restraining orders from purchasing a gun; on the other side of the aisle, Rep. Matt Gurtler (R-8) presented HB 156, which would turn Georgia into a “constitutional carry” state, where weapon permits are voluntary.
The House Public Safety Committee is set to reconvene in the coming weeks to discuss all bills, though the Chairman did not indicate whether action would be taken.