Gov. Nathan Deal’s veto of Georgia’s “campus carry” measure led to a swift response from all sides of the debate.
Let’s start with the Republican’s reasoning for striking down House Bill 859, which would legalize firearms at all public colleges in Georgia. Deal said in his veto statement Tuesday that it’s “highly questionable” that the measure would increase the safety of students in Georgia.
Since much of the motivation for HB 859 is the commission of crimes involving the use of firearms on college campuses, 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.
From the early days of our nation and state, colleges have been treated as sanctuaries of learning where firearms have not been allowed. To depart from such time honored protections should require overwhelming justification. I do not find that such justification exists.
The National Rifle Association was among the first to blast Deal – and single out Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston as allies to the cause. The gun rights group’s statement reminded Deal of his earlier, friendlier view of the legislation.
“We agreed with Governor Deal when he said that the arguments against the campus safety bill lacked validity. He was right then, but he is wrong today,” said NRA spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen.
Prominent critics of the legislation quickly followed up with praise for the governor.
“I commend the governor for vetoing the bill. We pointed out many flaws in this piece of legislation during the session and hope that this will put the matter the rest,” said Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson.
This came from Lindsey Donovan, leader of the Georgia chapter of Moms Demand Action:
“This veto is thanks to thousands of Georgians who have spoken out and rallied against guns on campus. The leadership shown by Governor Deal with this veto should stand as proof to other elected officials that this is not a partisan issue and that they too can stand up to the gun lobby. I’m thrilled that our voices were heard and that the will of the gun lobby no longer goes unchecked in the state of Georgia.”
And the University System of Georgia, which had long opposed the measure, thanked Deal for the veto.
“The vast majority of our faculty, staff, parents and students are concerned about firearms on campus. As leaders of the University System of Georgia, we must provide the highest levels of safety and security to the 318,000 students we serve,” read a statement from the System.
The Democratic Party of Georgia issued a carefully-worded statement devoid of much specific mention of Deal.
“Georgia Democrats hope that next year’s session will yield more productive legislation aimed at young people than the election year stunts we were given by the Georgia GOP in 2016,” said executive director Rebecca DeHart.
State Rep. Rick Jasperse, the Jasper Republican who sponsored the measure, was among many Republicans who vowed to revive the effort next year. Said Jasperse:
“I have no animosity toward the governor, and I know a lot of people would like to put this behind them. But it’s coming back next year. If it’s not me, it’s going to be somebody else. We will be back.”
“Of course I’m disappointed at the veto. We made it all about victims. It was absolutely about those folks over 21 who are college students, folks who have traditionally never had a problem with law enforcement. I just want people to know, this group of folks we’re talking about have been stellar citizens. They deserve to be able to carry their firearms.”
House Speaker David Ralston seconded that sentiment:
“At a time when our Second Amendment rights are under attack, I believed and still believe that it is very important that we do all that is necessary and proper to strengthen our constitutional protections. Georgians should not be required to give up their constitutional rights when they set foot on a college campus.
“This is not the end of this discussion. I will continue to defend and protect the rights of law-abiding Georgians under our Second Amendment.”
So did Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle:
“The General Assembly saw fit to craft a measure that allows adults over 21 with a concealed weapons permit to lawfully carry on college campuses, and passed a measure that would provide students with a greater sense of security. I anticipate you will see continued efforts to increase safety on college campuses.”