While President Donald Trump was 40 miles away addressing a gun-rights group, two of Coweta County’s legislators were in Newnan defending their votes in favor of a controversial bill to allow the carrying of loaded guns on college campuses.
The so-called “campus carry” bill, House Bill 280, passed the General Assembly on April 5 largely along party lines and is awaiting the signature of Gov. Nathan Deal to become law. Legislators made concessions that Deal had requested last year when he vetoed a similar bill, but observers still aren’t certain the governor will sign the new one.
Deal was noncommittal with reporters as he attended the kickoff Friday of the National Rifle Association convention in Atlanta where Trump later spoke. Protesters, including a group of students at the University of Georgia Wednesday, have rallied against the bill
Newnan Republicans Rep. Lynn Smith, the most senior member of the local legislative delegation, and Sen. Matt Brass, one of the delegation’s two freshmen, both stood up to questioning today from fellow members of the Newnan Rotary Club about their support for the bill.
“I heard from several parents and students in my district who said they were worried and that they’re scared about their safety on campus without the protection of a gun,” Smith said.
She noted that unlike college campuses in the past that were compact, nowadays schools have buildings scattered around town, requiring students to leave campus and cross through potentially dangerous neighborhoods for class or private dormitories.
“It’s not like when we were in school,” she said.
Brass expressed frustration at the claims about the bill made by both supporters of it and opponents.
“I think both sides are over exaggerating what it will do,” he said, noting that few students will qualify to carry guns, since the minimum age for a Georgia Weapons Carry License, which is required for both open and concealed carry, is 21.
The bill allows license holders to carry guns on campus, but the guns must be concealed. Guns aren’t permitted at athletic events or in athletic facilities, in student housing, including fraternity and sorority houses on campus, or in classes where high school students are attending college through dual enrollment.
All of the Republicans in the local delegation voted for the bill. The lone Democrat, Rep. Bob Trammell voted in opposition.