Gov. Nathan Deal just two years ago signed what was labeled the “guns everywhere bill,” but he reaffirmed Tuesday that guns should not be allowed on the campuses of Georgia’s colleges and universities, at least not without stricter rules on where they can be carried.
Deal quietly vetoed a bill Tuesday that would have allowed licensed gun owners to take their weapons on public campuses around the state.
It made exceptions for dorms, fraternities, sororities and sporting events.
Deal’s decision was one of the most scrutinized of his six-year tenure as the state’s executive, coming weeks after a controversial veto of a religious exemptions bill that drew intense national attention from major corporations like the NFL and Disney.
“This has not been an easy year to be governor of this state,” Deal said Monday as reporters threw questions at him about the “campus carry” bill.
“It's really our place; it's our work,” said Ivan Ingermann, an associate professor at the University of Georgia’s film and theater department who says he and many of his colleagues don’t want guns in their classrooms.
"We know better than a couple of legislators that have, you know, rarely set foot on a college campus unless it's game day," Ingermann said.
Last week, professors, students, staff and community members rallied at the University of Georgia in protest of the campus carry bill.
The bill’s sponsors say allowing guns on campus would make them safer.
“The universities should not take your ability to defend yourself, no matter what, from you. And this thing about punching lights and running and calling for help … that ain't right,” Republican state Rep. Rick Jasperse said.
He sponsored the 2014 “guns everywhere law” signed by Deal.
For days leading up to the veto, Deal wouldn’t reveal his decision, despite being asked about it repeatedly at bill-signing ceremonies meant to draw attention to other less controversial measures.
During the legislative session, Deal asked lawmakers to make changes to the measure they had already passed.
He said he had concerns guns might be brought into day cares, disciplinary hearings and faculty and administrative offices.
Some of those issues “may be more appropriately left to institutions,” Deal said, “rather than put it in a statute that is not flexible at all.”
But proponents of the bill in the Legislature refused to make the changes Deal suggested.
House Speaker David Ralston has long pushed for expanded guns-rights laws.
“If you start trying to pick at the threads of some of these things, sometimes you can end up gutting the entire intent of the law, and I’m not going to ask this House of Representatives to do that,” Ralston said in response to Deal’s requests.
The campus carry bill passed both chambers of the Legislature with strong support among the Republican lawmakers Deal will need to vote for an overhaul of the state’s education formula -- an apparent legacy issue for the governor.