Earlier this morning, we pondered why Gov. Nathan Deal signed a bill to permit concealed firearms to be carried on the campuses of public universities.
After using some high-toned language that defined campuses as sanctuaries of learning in last year’s veto of similar legislation, this passage in the announcement seems to lie at the heart of the governor’s current reasoning:
“While HB 280 addresses the rights and restrictions relating to weapons carry license holders on a college campus, it in effect may have greater significance for students who are going to or coming from a campus. Unfortunately, in parts of the state, the path to higher education travels through dangerous territory.”
Those are the governor’s italics – not ours.
But there is another point worthy of study: Why did Gov. Nathan Deal sign the gun bill so quietly?
This was a bill-signing by press release. There was no public ceremony. And last week’s annual gathering of the National Rifle Association in Atlanta would have provided a marvelous stage.
Republicans don’t normally play down Second Amendment issues. In 2014, Deal celebrated the signing of another gun bill, which also expanded the number of public spaces where concealed weaponry can be carried, with great fanfare on the banks of the Coosawattee River in north Georgia.
Perhaps there was some discomfort with the contrast between last year’s black-and-white veto message and this year’s compromise. But there’s another possibility that could also explain the governor’s low-profile decision.
In January, an AJC poll found that 54 percent of registered voters opposed guns on public university campuses. That number jumps to 60 percent among women voters.
We have two major runoffs on the horizon in Georgia. A face-off in Senate District 32 features two women — Democrat Christine Triebsch and Republican Kay Kirkpatrick. Then there’s the Sixth District contest between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel.
In each contest, Democratic chances are riding on women voters motivated by Donald Trump’s victory in November. But it’s also possible that Deal didn’t want to give suburban moms and daughters another reason to get angry.
Naysayers will point to the AJC poll and note that campus-carry legislation won the approval of 65 percent of Republicans, and that the territory in question is a GOP stronghold. Both of which are true.
But these runoffs aren’t primaries. Special elections, especially in these two instances, are more akin to general elections. And that makes a difference.
Jon Ossoff, the Democrat in the Sixth District contest, was quick to pounce last night:
“This is a dangerous bill. As our bright young people on college campuses learn and prepare to succeed, they should be able to sit in class without worrying whether the student next to them has a Glock on their hip.”
Republican Karen Handel has yet to comment on the governor’s action. But last week, a spokewoman for the Handel campaign conveyed the candidate’s support for the bill:
“Significant changes to address concerns from the governor after last year’s veto have been added to improve the bill,” said the spokeswoman, Kate Constantini. “This bill treats law-abiding 21-year-olds responsible enough to go through the process of a background check and acquiring a concealed weapons permit like the adults they are.”
Republican David Shafer of Duluth, president pro tem of the state Senate, has filed paperwork to run for lieutenant governor in Georgia. Documents list John A. Isakson, son of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, as campaign chairman. Bartow Morgan, Jr., CEO of BrandBank, is listed as campaign treasurer.
The moves comes as no surprise, but what remains to be seen is whether any Senate GOP colleagues challenge him. With Butch Miller of Gainesville and Brandon Beach of Alpharetta likely out of the contest, it could leave an opening for John Kennedy of Macon or Burt Jones of Jackson to run.
State Rep. Geoff Duncan, R-Cumming, is also in the contest, and former Democratic state senator Doug Stoner of Smyrna is looking at a run, too.
We’re told that Gov. Nathan Deal on Monday will sign House Bill 1, a measure intended to encourage the development of a space port on the Georgia coast. With it is likely to come the news that Vector, a micro-satellite space launch company, has agreed to conduct a flight test in Camden County, Ga., this summer — on the land eyed for launch-pad development.
We told you earlier this week that the Karen Handel campaign accidentally left some embarrassing audio attached to some “b-roll” footage posted on YouTube, likely for use by super PACs that are supporting her.
One clip featured a “concerned citizen” informing the Sixth District Republican of the pain associated with having his nose hair waxed. A helpful reader has identified that fellow as Bates Mattison, mayor pro tem of Brookhaven.
Which is significant. Earlier this week, we told you that Liz Ernst, sister of Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst, had been hired as the campaign manager for Christine Triebsch, the Democrat in the runoff for state Senate District 32 – which has become part of the Sixth District dynamic.
“We’re giving these food service professionals the flexibility to move as we get a healthier generation,” Perdue said May 1. “This is not reducing nutritional standards whatsoever. It’s pausing here to evaluate whether or not the progressive standards of moving even further are appropriate or not.”