David Ralston: Ga. Lawmakers Writing New ‘Campus Carry’ Bill

Gov. Nathan Deal this spring vetoed a measure passed by the Georgia Legislature that would have allowed licensed gun owners to carry their weapons on campus at Georgia’s public colleges and universities.

But lawmakers are working on a new version of the “campus carry” bill for the legislative session set to begin in January, House Speaker David Ralston said in an interview Wednesday.

“Let’s put together a new bill,” he said, “Maybe address some of the concerns that were raised, and take additional measures necessary to protect our constitutional rights under the Second Amendment, which is what I’m all about.”

Legislators could try to override Deal’s veto at the beginning of the session, but Ralston said that approach wouldn’t be his preference.  

This spring, after the legislature passed the “campus carry” bill, Deal said he was worried about weapons being allowed in day cares, administrative buildings and disciplinary hearings. Led by Ralston, lawmakers declined to accommodate those changes.

When Deal later vetoed the bill, his opposition appeared to become further entrenched. Deal said the Second Amendment does not protect the right to take weapons on college campuses, citing a U.S. Supreme Court opinion written by late Justice Antonin Scalia and rules written at the University of Virginia in 1824 under the watch of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

Speaking to reporters after his veto, Deal noted the University of Georgia opened in 1785, and since then, he said, “We’ve been through major wars, conflicts and upheavals in this country and in the world. Why all of sudden in 2016 do we need weapons in the hands of college students?”

The University System of Georgia and university presidents from around the state declared their opposition to the now vetoed “campus carry” measure before it passed the legislature.

“The bottom line: we oppose this legislation,” said outgoing University System Chancellor Hank Huckaby at the time. “Our campus police officers will tell you that allowing students to have firearms on campus makes their job extremely challenging, particularly if an extreme emergency were to occur.”

Ralston didn’t give specifics about how the new “campus carry” bill will differ from the measure vetoed by Deal, but he seemed to indicate there wouldn’t be drastic changes.

“I’m not going to support a tweak that’s going to open up a bill to looking like a piece of Swiss cheese,” said Ralston. “There may be some other protections that we can talk about that we can even have a stronger bill than we had last year.”

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