Faith leaders urge Gov. Deal to veto ‘campus carry’ bill

A coalition of ministers, rabbis and other “campus carry” opponents on Monday urged Gov. Nathan Deal to veto the bill that the Georgia legislature passed earlier this month.

The coalition, which calls itself Outcry, said the legislation allowing college students to carry guns on campuses would “make Georgia a less safe, more violent place.”

One member, Reynolds Couch, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who belongs to Trinity Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, said he is “very strongly opposed” to “campus carry.”

“This bill…would allow college kids — just out of their teens — to carry loaded, semiautomatic handguns on campus with no required training whatsoever,” Couch said. “The bill sponsors, who most likely think they’ve introduced a good idea, know little or nothing about gun safety and training.”

House Bill 859, sponsored by Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, would let anyone 21 or older with a weapons license carry a gun anywhere on a public college or university campus, except for inside dormitories, fraternity and sorority houses, and athletic events.

Supporters of “campus carry” argue that the legislation would address safety concerns about crime on the state’s universities and colleges. Many cite the recent robberies at the Georgia State University library as examples of why enabling students to carry guns on campus would make them safer.

The University System of Georgia and leaders of the state’s institutions have expressed concerns that students may not be mature enough to understand responsible gun usage. Opponents of the bill also claim allowing students to have guns on campuses would make the job of campus police more difficult, especially in emergency situations.

Last week, the governor’s office said in a statement that he wants lawmakers to consider exempting on-campus child care centers from the “campus carry” legislation. The statement also addressed the governor’s concerns about high school students who are joint-enrolled in college courses on campuses that would allow firearms.

The legislation passed the General Assembly without addressing the governor’s concerns, a fact several members of Outcry pointed out. However, the bill could see changes during the last two days of the legislative session.

House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, told GPB on Monday that he expected no new legislation addressing the governor’s concerns to move in the final two days of the legislative session.

“I consider those issues closed. I think it’s a good bill,” Ralston said.

The last day of the legislative session is Thursday. Deal has 40 days after the end of the legislative session, which would be May 3, to either veto or sign into law any bill that passes the General Assembly.

Staff reporter Jim Galloway contributed to this report.

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