ATLANTA (Reuters) - Concealed handguns would be allowed on Georgia’s public college campuses under a measure that cleared the state’s House of Representatives and now heads to the Senate over the objections of university leaders.
The bill, which was approved by the Republican-dominated House on Monday, would let anyone 21 or over with a concealed weapons permit take their handguns on public college campuses but not into dormitories, fraternity and sorority houses or sporting events.
“The House took a very clear position that the Second Amendment does not stop at the edge of a college campus,” Speaker David Ralston, a Republican, said following passage of the bill, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
A Democratic opponent of the bill, State Representative Robert Trammell, said in a phone interview on Tuesday that he believed the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment allowed handguns to be barred from “sensitive” places such as college campuses.
“In addition to the question of public safety, a weapon in a classroom environment is antithetical to the idea and mission of post-secondary education,” Trammell said.
Supporters of the measure have cited several recent armed robberies of students in the library at Georgia State University in downtown Atlanta as evidence that students should be allowed to arm themselves.
But Trammell said there is no data showing that campuses would be safer if students were allowed to carry weapons.
The Georgia Board of Regents, which governs the state’s colleges and universities, opposes the bill, spokesman Charles Sutlive said.
The measure’s chances in the Republican-controlled state Senate are unclear. A similar “campus carry” provision failed in 2014 when senators stripped it from a broader gun bill.
A spokeswoman for Republican Governor Nathan Deal said the governor does not comment on pending legislation, giving no indication of whether he supports the bill.
Last week, the president of the University of Texas reluctantly approved plans that would allow licensed concealed handgun holders to bring pistols into classrooms, after the Texas legislature last year approved a campus carry law similar to the one proposed in Georgia.
Georgia’s bill covers only public colleges. Texas allows private colleges to opt out of campus carry, and most of the best-known private schools have.
Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Bill Trott