A controversial bill that would expand the list of areas where people with permits can carry guns has hit a major snag in the state General Assembly after the legislature’s lawyers said a key proposal could be unconstitutional.
The problem lies in the “opt in” measure, which would allow college presidents to decide whether permit holders could carry weapons on campus.
In an opinion, legislative lawyers say only the General Assembly can regulate gun laws in the state. They also say the measure infringes on the board of regents' constitutional authority to govern the university system.
The bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper), said he agrees with the opinion.
“We didn’t want to do that, really,” Jasperse said of allowing college presidents to weigh in on campus carry. “This is one of those big, tough decisions that really effects people, families and citizens across the state, and we should be the ones making that decision.”
Jasperse said House Republicans will continue to push for campus carry, even if it doesn’t pass this year.
“We’ll work at it, making sure the public understands the peril that some of our students are in,” Jasperse said. “We have alternative students who are going to and from class at 7, 8, 9, 10 o’clock at night, going to far-flung parking lots and in the city. And our law enforcement, though we love them and respect them absolutely, can’t be everywhere.”
House minority speaker Rep. Stacy Abrams (D-Atlanta), however, said she was pleased to learn of the opinion.
“It is critical that we keep the most vulnerable populations in our state safe from gun violence, and that includes our colleges, universities and technical schools,” Abrams said.
The board of regents last year strongly opposed some proposed bills that would have expanded carry areas for permit holders to campuses, though dorms, Greek system houses and athletic events would have been excluded. A final bill fizzled at the end of last year’s session, but lawmakers had said they planned to revive it this year.
The “opt in” measure was discussed as a possible compromise.
The opinion from the legislative council essentially halts the bill, which would have also expanded carry areas to churches, bars and non-secure government buildings.
Jaspers said the House is in the process of drafting a new bill – one that doesn’t include campus carry – which he said is expected to be introduced Monday.