Why Georgia’s governor seems likely to sign ‘campus carry’ bill

Gov. Nathan Deal. Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

Nearly a year after Gov. Nathan Deal issued a forceful veto of legislation that would legalize guns on Georgia’s campuses, lawmakers sent a gun rights expansion into public colleges back to his desk. This time, though, he appears more likely to sign it.

The campus gun bill tops the list of consequential measures waiting for Deal’s approval that map out Georgia’s budgetary blueprint, expand the state’s medical marijuana program and dole out tax breaks to special industries.

Other contentious bills, including a sweeping income tax cut and a “religious liberty” revival, failed to reach his desk by the tumultuous end of the 40-day legislative session that wrapped up early Friday. Starting Friday, Deal has 40 days to sign the measures into law or veto them — and he’s shown he’s not afraid to wield the red pen.

Of the legislation awaiting his signature, the campus gun measure is destined to attract the most attention. Conservatives have tried for five years to allow people with permits to carry concealed firearms on most parts of public colleges, and last year they passed a bill that would do just that. They depicted it as a public safety measure.

In doing so, though, lawmakers defied Deal’s request for changes that would make exceptions to the expansion, and he issued a scathing veto of the measure. His message invoked an opinion by the late Justice Antonin Scalia that described colleges as “sanctuaries of learning where firearms have not been allowed.”

 


 

This year, the governor said he was willing to reopen the debate. In a late compromise between House and Senate leaders, lawmakers approved a measure that acceded to Deal’s demands to bar guns from on-campus child care facilities, faculty and administrative office space, and disciplinary meetings.

It also would exempt classrooms where high school students attend college campuses, as well as dormitories, sorority and fraternity houses, and athletic events.

Deal has said he is “receptive” to the bill as long as it made those changes, but he declined to comment on the measure Friday. Supporters expressed confidence he would sign the legislation, even if they had to include the restrictions that many social conservatives opposed.

Protestors demonstrate against legislation to permit concealed handguns on public college campuses. AP.

“It didn’t do all that many members wanted it to do, but I understand that,” House Speaker David Ralston said. “You don’t all the time score a touchdown on a play, but we got a first down on that, at least. I’m pleased that we were able to get a bill that improves and strengthens the Second Amendment.”

The measure’s critics are eager to remind the governor of his stinging veto last year. The University System of Georgia opposed the measure, and among the Republican “no” votes were Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert, whose district is home to part of the University of Georgia campus. Gun control advocates have already launched an ad campaign urging Deal to nix the measure again.

“I thought his veto message was eloquent and strong last year,” Democratic state Sen. Nan Orrock said. “It would be profoundly disappointing to see that bulwark fall. It’s dismaying to see how Georgia is following the gun-carry crowd deeper and deeper into the woods.”

Some critics also point out a possible drafting error in the measure that could complicate his decision. Writing in GeorgiaPol.com, Democratic aide Stefan Turkheimer notes a lack of a comma in the provision regarding faculty offices could cause legal problems.

Ducking debates

The governor is able to skirt several other tough decisions thanks to legislative infighting and behind-the-scenes work from his administration.

Lawmakers didn’t return any form of the “religious liberty” legislation he vetoed last year after the governor and House leaders banded against the measures, which social conservatives say are needed to protect faith-based initiatives but critics cast as legalized discrimination against gay couples.

But a revival of that debate also seemed to tank a long-planned update to the state’s adoption laws when Senate and House lawmakers couldn’t agree on a compromise after a fight over a Senate provision that could have allowed private agencies to refuse to place children with same-sex couples.

And the sparring chambers failed to negotiate a truce over legislation backed by the Senate that would provide a $200 million income tax cut — mostly to wealthier residents — and force e-retailers to collect sales taxes on what they sell.

Deal had hinted he would veto the tax break when he urged politicians to defy the “temptation” of broad tax increases that could jeopardize the state’s fiscal health.

He’ll put that mantra to the test with other measures approved by the General Assembly that would lower taxes on Georgians who lease vehicles and give new incentives to owners of giant yachts who get their boats repaired in Savannah’s shipyards.

No ‘shock’

A few other measures won’t be as vexing.

After the resounding defeat in November of the governor’s Opportunity School District plan, lawmakers quickly developed a “Plan B” that would give the state new powers to intervene in struggling schools. While not as far-reaching as Deal’s failed proposal of a constitutional amendment, the governor has embraced the First Priority Act and said he will sign it.

He also seems likely to approve a measure that would expand the state’s medical marijuana program by making six new conditions eligible for treatment with a limited form of cannabis oil, including Alzheimer’s disease, AIDS, autism and Tourette’s syndrome.

And he is sure to sign the record $25 billion state budget that calls for 2 percent raises for most state employees and University System staffers, plus a 19 percent pay hike for child protective services workers, and maps out more than $2 billion in new spending on schools, college buildings, roads and bridges.

Already in the books is a midyear spending plan that gives most state law enforcement officers a 20 percent raise and a three-year extension of a hospital provider fee to shore up Medicaid funding.

But there are plenty of question marks remaining. That includes a proposal that would ban private colleges that don’t cooperate with federal immigration policies from tapping state funding for research and scholarships. He’s said little publicly about the Republican-backed effort, which was introduced shortly after Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential race.

After all, the bill-signing period is nothing if unpredictable. Through his first five years in office, Deal averaged about eight vetoes a year, along with a scarcer number of line-item vetoes. He had never rejected more than 11 pieces of legislation in one year. But in 2016 he nullified 16 measures.

As he reminded legislators scrambling to pass measures in the final hours of the session, more red ink could be on the way.

“I may not sign all of them,” he said to scattered chuckles. “I don’t want to shock you with that statement.”

Reader Comments 0

122 comments
Spinoza
Spinoza

The sponsors of this bill were so intellectually and morally cowardly they would not come to any of our campuses and engage in a public debate for fear of being exposed as the frauds they are.They would not answer questions from faculty and citizens opposed to the bill and they, especially Bambi the woman that they fronted for this bill so it wouldn’t look like the usual good old boy surrogates for the NRA, hid in their offices.

These are just a few questions they couldn’t answer.

How do you propose to enforce these provisions on our campuses?: “Not to apply to buildings or property used for athletic sporting events or student housing, including, but not limited to, fraternity and sorority houses.”Campus police cannot search each student and must have probable cause in order to ask questions regarding their carrying a concealed weapon.

Why do you believe that our campuses will be safer with armed students who are not required to receive any firearm safety courses or demonstrate any knowledge of, or proficiency in the use of guns?Even the training I received in the Army is not adequate for determining how to carry out decisions with the use of a lethal weapon in a civilian environment.

What evidence do you have that our campuses will be safer?Advocacy research doesn’t count and that includes the widely refuted work of John Lott who is not considered to be a serious research by academics in the social sciences.

You assert that this is a matter of a constitutional right but did you not read this important statement from the Heller decision authored by Antony Scalia: “Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.

Finally, why do you ignore the fact that this bill is opposed by the overwhelming majority of those who are most affected by it: the Board of Regents, the college and university presidents of the system, the administration, faculty, staff, students, and majority of citizens?And even the majority of the state’s citizens.

The answer is they have an agenda, a gun agenda, and the intend to impose it on everyone else regardless of public opinion or evidence.

Brenda Addison
Brenda Addison

He best sign! The Georgia GOP has more sense than to believe guns kill. But they can STOP A KILLER.

Wayne Smith
Wayne Smith

Your constitutional rights are yours, even on campus. Good.

Dotan Zebrowitz Harpak
Dotan Zebrowitz Harpak

Fellow Georgians, this bill is still dangerous. What the Governor wrote when he vetoed guns on campus last year still stands true, this current version doesn't change it. Please take action and ask him to veto: act.everytown.org/sign/georgia-guns-on-campus-2017

Brenda Addison
Brenda Addison

Never ! Duh. Guns don't kill, neither do knives-poison--baseball bats . If it's kill or be killed -well--- You never know who will save a life .

Joe Felix
Joe Felix

I don't give a F**k, hell I'm not a student, teacher, employee and my child have finish College!

Spinoza
Spinoza

Then you are a selfish idiot who shouldn't even bother expressing your ignorant opinion.

Spinoza
Spinoza

And in the meantime you need to finish your GED and learn some grammar. Your character is pretty hopeless though.

Chad Douglas
Chad Douglas

This bill is a joke and hardly changes anything. Those expressing outrage are ridiculous and uninformed. Sorry.

Spinoza
Spinoza

Why? I am a professor in the system and I am quite informed and find it very objectionable as do all the university presidents, the BOR, all the public safety officers, and the vast majority of faculty and students.  Give an argument before you accuse others of ignorance.

Ben Bryant
Ben Bryant

Because unlike last time there is a mutual quid pro quo, college kids get guns and the governor gets his school reform.

Max Gregory Anderson
Max Gregory Anderson

This scaredy-cat wimpy paranoia mentality hiding behind the 2nd amendment is getting old

Kathy Brown
Kathy Brown

So a 21 yr. old student can have a gun, but a student 18-20 is a SITTING DUCK? This law is NOT about protecting students because NOT every student is equal. Age discrimination.

Justin Johnson
Justin Johnson

Guess we should give 8 year Olds drivers licenses too right? Lol.

Spinoza
Spinoza

"Sitting duck"? What reality do you inhabit? Our campuses are protected by armed, trained, campus police and statistically are among the safest public spaces in this society. So safe it is almost like being in Europe instead of gun nut happy America.

Kathy Brown
Kathy Brown

If you give them to an 11 yr. old then yes, of course

Wil Sims
Wil Sims

There were open carry people at the dallas shooting, the only thing they did was run like everybody else except for the police. Just because you have a weapon doesnt mesn that you are in the frame of mind to use it. Only those who are standing watch, such as being on guard duty, have a chance to react properly in a shootout situation.

Ross Da Boss
Ross Da Boss

The adult working students that have real jobs that involve handling money, expensive tools/materials, or high risk jobs (driver/security/late night work). They are licensed and stopping by campus for class is just a small part of their day. The most common crime on any campus is theft, specifically auto (or dorm, but few 21+ live in a dorm). This is where illegal gun trade starts. Being forced to touch/unholster a loaded weapon and leave in a vehicle. Now that once legal and safely carried weapon is now in the hands of at least a thief. The actual chance of stopping a mass school shooting is very very rare, almost to the point it's a straw man argument unless we're speaking of armed robber at Georgia Tech.

Roscoe Nesmith
Roscoe Nesmith

My kids won't be attending my alma mater. I love the Dawgs, but I love my kids more.

Albert Pickett
Albert Pickett

This is awful public policy. University faculties and administrations are unanimously against guns on their campuses.

Ross Da Boss
Ross Da Boss

Same people that constantly piss away money and have no real grasp on the world outside of their campus. Usually teach after spending last few decades with in the system and never had a real job outside the campus safety areas. The adult working students that have real jobs that involve handling money, expensive tools/materials, or high risk jobs (driver/security/late night work). They are licensed and stopping by campus for class is just a small part of their day. The most common crime on any campus is theft, specifically auto (or dorm, but few 21+ live in a dorm). This is where illegal gun trade starts. Now that once legal and safely carried weapon is now in the hands of at least a thief. The actual chance of stopping a mass school shooting is very very rare, almost to the point it's a straw man argument unless we're speaking of armed robberies and Georgia Tech.

Spinoza
Spinoza

What is the point of your ignorant ad hominem statements in the first sentence?

Ryan Padgett
Ryan Padgett

Everyone is so salty about this. Y'all are acting like owning a gun automatically makes you a mass murderer...

Roscoe Nesmith
Roscoe Nesmith

I'm a liberal, own guns, but I don't feel the need to go walking around armed all the time. What is this? Thunderdome? Is our society so failed that we have to walk around armed? Crime is still at historic lows despite the recent uptick. If you can't go outside without a weapon then maybe it's time we close up shop because whatever we've been doing for the last 40 years ain't working. Sure, crimes lower, but now we're just a nation of gun toting 'fraidy' cats.

Justin Johnson
Justin Johnson

^ so don't Carry a gun if you don't like it. You won't have it if a situation arises that you'd need it. I, on the other hand, will have it. See how that works? \U0001f609

Spinoza
Spinoza

No, it is unnecessary and given that we are adequately protected by campus police we do not want untrained students carrying guns.  As far as mass shootings on campus are concerned, they are rare, and most often committed by students who are mentally ill or under academic stress and break.  This stupidity of a bill makes our safe learning environments less safe.

Spinoza
Spinoza

Too bad, we have a lot of stupid people already carrying guns and dotes like you are a threat to the rest of us.

Ryan Padgett
Ryan Padgett

A gun is like a condom; I'd rather have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

Brent Hilburn
Brent Hilburn

Well, this is going to upset some people over at Georgia Gun Owners, Inc.... It's a "compromise bill"... Oh the horror.! The ACTUAL passing of legislation that enhances freedoms....

Spinoza
Spinoza

How does it "enhance freedoms"?

Matt Steffney
Matt Steffney

Learn more about your gun rights at GeorgiaCarry.Org.

Spinoza
Spinoza

Yes, read some mindless laughable gun nut propaganda. And then go onto Alex Jones while you're at it.

Thomas Wilson
Thomas Wilson

No. Sign a bill giving individual colleges the right to decide if they want to allow firearms. That seems like a happy medium.

Spinoza
Spinoza

They tried that before and every single president signed a statement saying they would not allow it.  Given that there are no reasons for such legislation and it is opposed by the Board of Regents, the presidents in the system, the vast majority of faculty, administrators, staff, public safety directors, and students it shouldn't be passed.

Kathy Sieling
Kathy Sieling

Worst part, police won't know who the bad guys are. I feel the most for police or anyone that gets killed by police because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Spinoza
Spinoza

Yes, that concern has been expressed many times. These benighted officials making our laws couldn't care less.

Lou Davis
Lou Davis

Yippee! End the gun free murder zones.

Robert L. Adams III
Robert L. Adams III

Some.... So I guess we should have open care in them now? \U0001f44d\U0001f3fd

Robert Christopher Parks
Robert Christopher Parks

Lol people freak out over guns because lets face it... People are easily scared of non issues.

Roscoe Nesmith
Roscoe Nesmith

People freak out and carry guns because, let's be honest, people are easily scared over non-issues, like rampant campus crime.

Robert Christopher Parks
Robert Christopher Parks

Its their second amendment to protect themselves. If you get freaked out over someone carrying a gun which 9/10 times you will never know , then you have some issues

Spinoza
Spinoza

Gee, I guess 32,000 firearm deaths a year, 1.4 million since 1968, and several million more injuries is a non-issue in gun happy America.

Spinoza
Spinoza

Exactly  One can hardly find a safer public space in this country than a college or university campus.

Spinoza
Spinoza

There is no second amendment right to carry a gun where ever you like. Read the Heller decision, Antony Scalia writing for the majority: 

“Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms."