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11:29 am
Thu March 21, 2013

Georgia Lawmakers Re-Work Gun Bill, Letting Permit Holders Carry in More Places

A sweeping change to Georgia's gun laws is now a step closer to passing the Legislature.

On Tuesday, March 19, a House committee approved a bill (SB 101) that had already passed the Senate.  In the process, House members replaced much of the bill with provisions from an earlier bill of their own, which expands the list of places where people with concealed weapons permits could carry their guns. 

Alice Johnson, director of Georgians for Gun Safety, takes a break from lobbying lawmakers to do a computer check on the status of legislation at the State Capitol, March 20, 2013.
Alice Johnson, director of Georgians for Gun Safety, takes a break from lobbying lawmakers to do a computer check on the status of legislation at the State Capitol, March 20, 2013.
Credit Denis O'Hayer/WABE News

Among the places on the list:  public colleges and universities.  That has attracted strong opposition from the state Board of Regents, university presidents, and gun  control groups.  On Wednesday, March 20, Alice Johnson, director of Georgians for Gun Safety, walked the Capitol hallways, making her case to lawmakers.  Johnson argues that college campuses are an environment all their own, and not a good one for guns, when one considers how young most students are.

"Most of us can think about things we did, or should not have done, that were really stupid," Johnson said.  "And the minute you include with the alcohol or with the drugs that are, you know, unfortunately easily available on college campuses--the minute you add firearms, it really is a recipe for disaster."

Members of campus gun rights groups also lobbied lawmakers Wednesday.  Luke Crawford is a Kennesaw State University student.  He is also president and co-founder of Kennesaw State Students for Concealed Carry.

Hunter Hurst (left) and Luke Crawford of Kennesaw State Students for Concealed Carry wait to speak with lawmakers outside the Senate Chamber at the State Capitol, March 20, 2013.
Hunter Hurst (left) and Luke Crawford of Kennesaw State Students for Concealed Carry wait to speak with lawmakers outside the Senate Chamber at the State Capitol, March 20, 2013.
Credit Denis O'Hayer/WABE News

  Crawford told WABE, "Just because there is an irresponsible citizen--and a lot of them--on college campuses, there is no reason that that should keep the responsible citizens like us from being able to protect and defend ourselves."

As for private colleges, the new version allows guns on campus only if college presidents decide to allow them.  The revised bill also bans guns in bars and houses of worship, but it gives bar owners and the administrators of the houses of worship the option to allow people to carry their guns.

One earlier House provision did not make it into the new bill.  After hearing objections from the state’s judges, the committee decided not to add courthouses to the list of places where permit holders could bring their guns.

The revamped bill has now moved to the House Rules Committee, which will schedule it for a vote by the full House.  Luke Crawford and his friends from Kennesaw State Students for Concealed Carry are optimistic the bill will pass the Legislature, and get Governor Nathan Deal's signature.   But, if it doesn't make it this year, they promise they'll be back.

"I'll be fighting for gun rights the rest of my life," Crawford said.  "And whether you win or lose, it's important that you stick with it, and persevere, and keep fighting for what you believe in."

Meanwhile, Alice Johnson of Georgians for Gun Safety is pinning her hopes on the college presidents and the Board of Regents to defeat the bill.

"They have the most political clout in this discussion," she said.  "And frankly, it's them versus the NRA."