Political Insider

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A comma could spell trouble for Georgia's 'campus carry' bill

Gov. Nathan Deal got what he wanted out of the latest version of a campus gun measure that he vetoed last year. But a possible drafting error in the measure could complicate his decision to sign the bill.

The governor nixed the legislation last year legalizing firearms on more places in public college campuses after lawmakers defied his personal request for changes that would make exceptions to the expansion, but said he was willing to reopen the debate as long as they acceded to his demands.

In a late compromise between House and Senate leaders, lawmakers approved a measure that appeared to do just that by barring guns from on-campus child care facilities, faculty and administrative office space, and disciplinary meetings.

That hastily-written deal, though, may have suffered from a grammatical problem. Writing in GeorgiaPol.com, Democratic aide Stefan Turkheimer notes a lack of a comma could cause legal issues.

It revolves around a provision that excludes certain on-campus spots, including "faculty, staff, or administrative offices or rooms where disciplinary proceedings are conducted."

The problem, Turkheimer writes, is the missing comma after the word offices. He continues:

Without that comma, it’s just two clauses both modifying “offices or rooms.” This reading becomes even more persuasive when you consider that both of these area exceptions, if they were meant to be separate, could, and perhaps should, have been put into different clauses. That’s how “Move on When Ready” and career academies were handled in the same bill.

So unless faculty offices are also rooms where “disciplinary hearings are conducted”, they would NOT be exempted. Let’s just ignore whether these rooms are off-limits only when they are being used for disciplinary hearings or whether they are off-limits from carrying at all times because sometimes they host disciplinary meetings (makes less sense, but that’s what the bill says).

Deal's office didn't comment on the legislation. But the vetting process that begins in earnest on Monday is sure to delve into the grammatical consequences of legislation for the hundreds of bills awaiting his signature.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.