ATHENS, Ga — Georgia’s much debated campus carry bill is waiting on Governor Nathan Deal’s desk right now.
University of Georgia students and teachers take to the iconic Arch Wednesday to protest House Bill 280 that would allow licensed gun owners to concealed carry their weapon on public college campuses.
Organizer Mallory Harris says the protest is in an effort to have the governor hear their voices before making such a monumental decision.
“We thank the governor for vetoing a similar bill last year. He recognized then that guns on campus would not make us safer and we hope he’ll make the same decision,” Harris says.
House Bill 280 passed the state legislature back in March. The bill allows those 21 and older with a Georgia weapons permit to carry concealed, but with some exceptions.
Weapon owners would not be permitted to bring their firearms into areas where high school students take classes or daycare areas. There are also limitations for sporting events, student housing, and fraternity and sorority houses.
Harris says the safety measures are not enough to limit escalating situations.
“They’re putting this in the hands of the more inexperienced gun owners, 21 year olds, young gun owners,” Harris says. “And where are they going to put their guns if they have to go [to those places]? How will security keep up?”
Josh Kenway is a foreign exchange student at UGA. He says his family was worried about him coming to the U.S. because of the news they hear on college violence.
“This bill is everything that I feared about coming to the United States. Everything my family feared, my friends feared back at home,” Kenway says. “Governor Deal is faced with a choice right now, to attract the best and the brightest to the university system, or if he signs this bill, he’s going to put off thousands of international students.”
The protest also attracted more than just opponents of campus carry. Near the end of the day, one student came bearing his own sign supporting 2nd Amendment rights to bear arms.
Josh Horne says he wants the governor to know the protest Wednesday does not come as a consensus from the university population. He believes allowing students to be armed would help them protect themselves and others in dangerous situations.
“Police can’t be everywhere at once,” Horne says. “A place like [the UGA Arch] by the time police got to a shooting here, it would already be over. Whereas a student with a gun would be able to put a stop to the incident right there and then.”
The governor’s office has not given a timeline on Nathan Deal’s plans to veto or pass House Bill 280.