With ‘religious liberty’ on the sidelines, an opening for campus carry

Gov. Nathan Deal. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Gov. Nathan Deal. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

The Georgia lawmakers who head to the Eggs & Issues annual rite of passage on Tuesday morning will get an interesting reception.

Many of them voted for the “religious liberty” legislation abhorred by the top business leaders who sponsor the Georgia Chamber event. But they also put last year’s debate behind them on Monday when they opened the legislative session with no move (yet) to revive the bill.

There was no talk of a veto override to reverse Gov. Nathan Deal’s decision to nix the legislation, no push by legislative leaders to reopen that debate. Instead, House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle prefaced the session with a call for federal lawmakers – and not state ones – to tackle the issue.

Left unsaid, though, is the likely return of campus carry legislation that was equally divisive. That measure would allow college students to carry concealed guns onto campuses, and Deal vetoed it only after lawmakers defied his personal request for exceptions to the expansion.

Many lawmakers see that legislation as part of a grand bargain in the works. Deal’s support for the gun rights bill could be traded for, say, backing for his failing schools initiative.

In an interview, Deal said he hasn’t closed the door on the measure this year – as long as it contains some of the changes he wanted.

“I’m not going to prejudge anything because I want to see what legislation they present,” he said. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”

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