Campus carry bill moves forward, sparks debate - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Campus carry bill moves forward, sparks debate

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

Adding protection or increasing danger? The big debate over guns on college campuses rages on in Georgia.

The Georgia House moving forward with a measure that would allow gun owners 21 and older with a concealed carry permit the right to bring that gun on public campuses. The house passed House Bill 280 Friday afternoon.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal vetoed a similar bill in 2016.

Concealed guns—easy to hide, hard to see, but do they have a place on college campuses?

"The second amendment does not extend to college campuses. That was a decision that was made by the Supreme Court,” said Kathryn Grant with the Campaign to Keep Guns off Campuses.

Grant led a protest Friday at Valdosta State.

"Infusing a campus with guns, and by the way, this bill will arm perpetrators of sexual assault too, may not be the solution,” said Grant.

Others, like employees at The Gun Shop, see it as a way to combat a growing number of campus shootings.

"They always talk about, ‘We need better gun control, we need tighter gun control to stop these school shootings.’ No, you need to allow the people on campus to carry a gun. That would stop the shootings,” said The Gun Shop manager Chris Cherry.

For the thousands of students walking these campuses, opinions vary just as much.

"I think it's good to allow people to protect themselves everywhere they go because we hear about all these school shootings and it's always bad news and no one has the opportunity to actually have a say in the argument,” said Austin Eskew, a student in favor of the bill.

Michelle Ramos thinks concealed guns make police officers' jobs more difficult.

"Right now, if they see a gun, then they can just act; they can go up to the person, confront them, but once people are allowed to carry weapons, it becomes, 'Is this a licensed person? Can they have it? What's their intent?' It raises a lot more questions, and it makes it harder for them to keep the campus safe,” said Ramos.

Former University Chancellor Hank Huckaby agrees. He had this to say last year: "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."

The goal is safer campuses. The question for Georgia will once again be, is adding firepower to the equation, the answer?

Gov. Deal doesn't comment on pending legislation, however, unlike last year's campus carry bill, this one eliminates the right to carry inside campus daycare centers—something lawmakers say was a big hang-up for the governor last session.

Despite the elimination of that clause, it appeared the governor had an even bigger issue with the bill last year. 

He issued this statement after that veto:

From the early days of our nation and state, colleges have been treated as sanctuaries of learning where firearms have not been allowed. To depart from such time-honored protections should require overwhelming justification. I do not find that such justification exists.

Including Georgia, there are 17 states that currently ban carrying a concealed weapon on a college campus. That includes South Carolina as well as North Carolina and Florida. In 24 states, the decision is made by each college or university. In eight states, legislation allows guns on public college campuses.

Tennessee, the 50th, allows faculty to carry them but not students.

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