Gov. Nathan Deal's veto Tuesday of the "campus carry" bill that would have allowed guns on the state’s college campuses was the second controversial decision he made this year.
The veto came just weeks after he blocked a controversial religious exemptions bill.
“They both represent very divided opinions on a subject matter. So this has not been an easy year to be governor of this state,” Deal said Monday.
Rejecting Party Politics
Deal is halfway through his second term as governor, so he can’t run again in 2018. That gives him some leeway, according to University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock.
“You know he is taking a stand that is out of step with the overwhelming majority of the Republicans in the general assembly,” said Bullock.
The Republican-controlled legislature passed both bills with an overwhelming majority. Now, Bullock said, lawmakers can blame the governor and still have a record of supporting gun rights.
“In their primaries they can point to – at least most of them can – that they voted in favor of this legislation,” Bullock said.
Deal still wants to push for major reforms in education and criminal justice next year. He'll need Republican support to do it.
Bullock said Deal's vetoes could make that more difficult.
“Some of them may carry a grudge that he vetoed legislation that they thought was important, that they strongly supported,” Bullock said.
The sponsor of the "campus carry" bill, state Rep. Rick Jasperse, says there will be another effort next year to expand gun rights at colleges and universities.
“If it's not me, it's someone else trying to find a place where we can allow Georgians who have a Georgia weapons carry license to carry in more places throughout the state. That's our main goal,” Jasperse said.
Reaction Includes Relief, Disappointment
While supporters of the bill say the push isn't over and they will continue next year to try to get legislation passed, opponents said they're relieved at the governor's decision.
Paul Oshinski, a sophomore at UGA, said he can now concentrate on finals week.
“I’m relieved that I can get back to studying for exams, and knowing that next year when I go to take an exam, there's not someone next to me with a gun in their pocket,” he said.
Oshinski started a petition this year against the bill that got over 8,000 supporters. He, along with other students and faculty at UGA, lobbied against the bill with rallies, calls and social media posts.
Ivan Ingermann, an associate professor at UGA, said opponents of “campus carry” are now more organized if the issue comes up against next year.
“We're going to be ready for it” he said. “Because it's not something that we as educators or the people involved in higher education have ever asked for.”
But some students say they want to be able to carry on campuses to defend themselves, and say they looked to the governor for his support.
“We expected him to sign this bill and move on with his support of campus safety. Instead, we saw him do exactly the opposite and leave our students to be sitting ducks,” said Robert Eager, southeast regional director with Students for Concealed Carry, and an alumnus of Georgia Tech.
Supporters of the legislation have said students with proper permits shouldn't have to disarm when they get to a campus, and they’ll try again with their efforts next year.
House Speaker David Ralston expressed disappointment in the governor's veto Tuesday, and said the veto was not the end of the discussion on the issue.
“At a time when our Second Amendment rights are under attack, I believed and still believe that it is very important that we do all that is necessary and proper to strengthen our constitutional protections,” Ralston said in a statement. “Georgians should not be required to give up their Constitution.”
Jerry Henry, executive director of GeorgiaCarry.org, said he was not surprised at the governor's decision.
"He says he's a Second Amendment supporter and he has had an A-plus from the NRA for the last 30 years, and apparently that rating was misplaced," Henry said.
Meanwhile, Deal has issued an executive order along with his veto to address issues of campus safety, directing the state’s university and technical college systems to submit reports about security measures in place on campuses.