On Tuesday of this week, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal vetoed a controversial bill that would allow college students over the age of 21 with concealed carry permits to carry guns on college campuses. The state legislature passed the bill in response to a rash of violent attacks on students at college campuses throughout the state.
Deal waited until the last possible day to veto the bill and remained tight-lipped about his intentions. The Republican stated that the efficacy of the legislation was “highly questionable,” though he had earlier opined that the arguments against the bill lacked validity. The governor had also suggested changes to the measure, but the legislature ignored those suggestions.
In his remarks on the veto, Deal suggested that the legislature take a different approach to ensure safety on college campuses:
Since much of the motivation for HB 859 is the commission of crimes involving the use of firearms on college campuses, I suggest to the General Assembly that it consider making the unauthorized possession and/or use of a firearm on a college campus an act that carries an increased penalty or an enhanced sentence for the underlying crime.
From the early days of our nation and state, colleges have been treated as sanctuaries of learning where firearms have not been allowed. To depart from such time honored protections should require overwhelming justification. I do not find that such justification exists.
The National Rifle Association was the first to express their dismay at Deal’s veto, and House Speaker David Ralston, also a Republican, issued a statement decrying the decision.
“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,” he said in a written statement. “Georgians should not be required to give up their constitutional rights when they set foot on a college campus.”
At the same time, gun control advocates applauded Deal. Lindsey Donovan, Georgia director of the anti-gun group Moms Demand Action, said, “I’m thrilled that our voices were heard and that the will of the gun lobby no longer goes unchecked in the state of Georgia.” Democrats also cited the protests by students around the state as a key influence on Deal’s veto.
This veto was not the first time this year that Governor Deal has alienated his conservative constituents. In March, he vetoed another controversial — though popular — measure that would protect religious liberty. That veto came under pressure from corporations and other organizations that took the legislation out of context and labeled it an “anti-gay” bill.
Meanwhile, at Fort Valley State University, a campus just a couple of hours south of where Deal vetoed the legislation, an assailant fatally stabbed a freshman who intervened to protect two female classmates:
The former student, 24-year-old Joseph Anthony Scott of Fort Valley, has been identified as the suspect in the Tuesday attack, agent J.T. Ricketson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The slain student, Donnell M. Phelps of Marshallville, got involved when three women were leaving the campus cafeteria, Ricketson said.
“[Scott] was being offensive … touching [the women] in a very inappropriate way,” Ricketson said.
Phelps came to their aid and Scott stabbed him multiple times before leaving the scene, Ricketson said.
As a freshman, Phelps could not have carried a gun that could have protected the women, but a campus carry law might have allowed someone of age to intervene to protect the students.
It’s not clear whether Deal was aware of the situation at Fort Valley State as he was exercising his veto.
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