Many of you have written extensively about House Bill 280, which would force Georgia’s public colleges and universities to allow guns on campus. Now the bill has reached Governor Nathan Deal’s desk and the clock is ticking for him to either sign or veto the bill.
Last year, Governor Deal vetoed similar legislation, citing safety concerns as one of his top deciding factors: “If the intent of [the bill] is to increase safety of students on college campuses, it is highly questionable that such would be the result.” And this year’s iteration of the bill poses the exact same risks that last year’s version did.
Legislators falsely claim that HB 280 is an “improved” version of the bill Governor Deal vetoed last year. But he didn’t veto the bill because it needed minor tweaks – he voted it because guns on campus is a dangerous idea. Signing HB 280 would be signing away Deal’s legacy as a responsible, common-sense voice for Georgians.
It would be a surprising and public flip-flop for the Governor to do anything but veto HB 280. To highlight this point, we’ve put together a helpful chart that compares Governor Deal’s veto statement from last year with what HB 280 would do – proving there’s no reason for him to change course and sign the bill into law this time around (available here).
For one, last year Governor Deal wrote of his concern that open campuses would enable unknown, armed visitors to carry hidden, loaded handguns onto college campuses.
“In order to carry a weapon onto a college, there is no requirement that the armed individual actually be a student, only that they possess a license to carry a weapon.”
This is still true: Under HB 280, visitors would be allowed to carry guns on campus.
And last year, Governor Deal vetoed guns on campus because he couldn’t find “overwhelming justification” to go against our Founding Fathers’ vision of having campuses free of firearms:
“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.”
Justification for this dangerous policy didn’t exist last year and it certainly doesn’t exist now.
After citing Justice Scalia’s opinion in Heller and the Founding Father’s adoption of a policy of prohibiting firearms on campus at the University of Virginia, Deal’s veto said:
“That college campuses should be a “gun free zone” is a concept that has deep roots in Georgia as well.”
In fact, the earliest evidence suggests that University of Georgia likely established such a policy in 1810.
What’s more, contrary to claims that this would only allow only those who are 21 years or older to carry guns on campus, this legislation would allow out-of-state teenagers to carry guns on campus (such as 18-year-olds from Alabama).
This bill would also reduce the penalty whenever a gun is illegally carried into a sports stadium or fraternity party down to a paltry $25. This puny penalty flies in the face of what Governor Deal explicitly called for in his veto statement last year:
“I suggest to the General Assembly that it consider making the unauthorized possession and/or use of a firearm on a college campus an act that carries an increased penalty or an enhanced sentence for the underlying crime.”
Georgia voters have made it clear that they do not support this type of legislation and don’t want to risk the safety of students and faculty on college campuses. By vetoing similar legislation last year, Governor Deal established himself as a governor willing to listen to the safety concerns of his constituents and put the protection of our college campuses as his top priority. To sign HB 280 into law would undoubtedly threaten this legacy for him.