Gov. Nathan Deal urged civilian police departments to tighten security around college campuses as he weighs whether to sign a sweeping gun rights expansion that would legalize more firearms on university property.
Deal has signaled he’s likely to sign the controversial proposal after lawmakers acceded to his demands for more exceptions to the measure. The Legislature’s refusal to add those exemptions last year to another “campus carry” proposal last year helped spur the governor’s veto of the measure.
But on Monday he urged local police departments to ramp up police patrols around college campuses, saying he’s “not satisfied” they have taken proper security measures to protect students, faculty and staff.
“It’s one thing to simply rail against students having the right to defend themselves,” said Deal. “But those students have a right to expect that civilian law enforcement would give them the protection they deserve.”
Deal said he wasn’t singling out the Atlanta Police Department or any other agency, but he said he was pleased with the “significant efforts” made by the University System of Georgia to improve security on campus since last year’s veto.
The governor added that he was particularly concerned about off-campus parking lots that could be targeted by criminals who know, under the current law, that college students parking there are likely to be “defenseless” because they aren’t permitted to bring their weapons on campus.
“When you have a college campus, if it’s in an area where we’ve seen examples where students have been targeted, I would think that just common sense would say there should be extraordinary additional support from civilian law enforcement to protect those students,” he said.
The governor has until May 9 to sign or veto the measure, but he has been largely positive about the bill in recent appearances. He has said repeatedly that he’s pleased with changes that would bar guns from on-campus child care facilities, faculty and administrative office space, and disciplinary meetings.
The measure’s critics hope to remind the governor of his stinging veto, which invoked an opinion by the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia describing colleges as “sanctuaries of learning where firearms have not been allowed.”
When pressed on how he wants local police departments to amp up security, Deal said they should “show they’ve tailored their hours and the number of people who are available” at off-campus parking lots and other heavily-trafficked areas.
“I think they can show that they have done that,” he said. “I have not been told, nor have I seen evidence, that has occurred.”