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Greg Bluestein

University presidents lobby for changes to ‘campus carry’ proposal

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Gov. Nathan Deal/AJC file

Gov. Nathan Deal/AJC file

Faced with a revolt from some of his top higher education appointments, Gov. Nathan Deal is pushing for changes to a bill that would legalize firearms on Georgia’s college campuses.

A Senate panel is set to vote next week on House Bill 859, which would allow anyone 21 or older with a weapons license to carry concealed weapons in most parts of college campuses.

The governor this week said the fears that sidetracked similar legislation in 2014 were overblown, and signaled his support for the legislation this year.

But two of his most important appointments, University of Georgia president Jere Morehead and Regents Chancellor Hank Huckaby, raised new questions about the plan on Wednesday. So did other campus leaders, including Kennesaw State University president Dan Papp and Georgia State University president Mark Becker.

“I am deeply concerned that if this bill becomes law our campus will become less safe, not more safe as intended by the authors of the bill,” Becker wrote in a letter to faculty and staff.

Deal said he met Wednesday with Hucakby and talked with some of the members of the Board of Regents over their concerns, and that they forwarded unspecified suggestions for changes they would find more amenable.

“We are all concerned about the security feature of students that are on campus and are traveling to campus,” Deal said. “It’s not an easy subject to find a good answer for. And I’m hopeful that the General Assembly will be in the position to find some compromises to that.”