A Georgia bill that would allow students to carry concealed weapons on some areas of public college campuses was passed in the state House on Monday. The legislation, known as House Bill 8569, will now move on to the state Senate.
The bill had overwhelming support with a 113-59 vote. Under the measure, students with carry licenses would be able to bring handguns to libraries and classrooms, among other places, but firearms would still be prohibited in student housing, fraternity and sorority houses, and at athletic facilities. Only adults who are a least 21 or have military experience can hold such licenses, according to Macon, Georgia's local paper The Telegraph.
"We're restoring those peoples' constitutional rights to defend themselves," Georgia Rep. Rick Jaseperse, who co-sponsored the bill, said at a hearing last week.
According to the bill, the firearm could not "actively solicit the attention of others" and would need to be hidden from view.
Georgia's House Speaker David Ralston said he anticipates the bill passing when it moves on to the Senate. "When we have armed robberies taking place in campus libraries, right here near this Capitol on multiple occasions, I think there is a real concern out in the state,” Ralston told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Georgia State University in Athens has been the scene in January of at least three armed robberies.
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Lawmakers debated for an hour and a half before the Monday vote. Opponents said it should be up to individual universities to determine their concealed weapons policy. "Just as outsiders should not dictate what questions a teacher may ask or what answers a student may offer, schools should be given the authority and discretion to set policies that shape the academic environment in which teaching and learning will occur," Rep. Karla Drenne said.
Georgia has 29 public colleges and universities that would be subject to the legislation if it passes, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Schools such as the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, and Georgia Tech in Atlanta have launched online petitions in response to the bill.