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Senate committee approves 'campus carry' bill

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Senate committee approves 'campus carry' bill

ATLANTA — Licensed gun owners could carry concealed handguns on public college campuses under legislation backed by a Senate committee Thursday evening, with a new exemption for buildings where high school-age students attend classes at some technical colleges.

The measure would allow anyone age 21 and up to carry a concealed handgun on campus with a state-issued permit.

Georgia's Republican Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a similar bill last year, and lawmakers hope that various carve-outs in this year's proposal will win him over. The Senate panel added an exemption for Georgia's "college and career academies" where high school students can take specific courses at technical colleges.

The bill approved by the House earlier this month already exempted student housing, preschools and sports facilities. Deal last year said he was concerned about permitting guns in child care facilities, administrative offices and in buildings that hold disciplinary hearings.

The University System of Georgia still opposes the bill. System Chancellor Steve Wrigley told senators that allowing concealed handguns won't make campuses safer and asked them to keep the state's prohibition intact.

"Current law strikes the right balance to create the right environment for our campuses," Wrigley said. "This position is supported by our presidents and our campus public safety departments who are closest to the day-to-day realities and operations of the state's public colleges and universities."

Georgia is among 17 states that ban concealed weapons on campuses.

The bill's sponsor, Republican Rep. Mandi Ballinger of Canton, said "law-abiding" people with a state-issued permit should be able to defend themselves.

"There is nothing right now prohibiting bad people from coming on our campuses with firearms," she said.

The Judiciary Committee's approval sends the so-called "campus carry" bill to the chamber's influential Rules Committee, which determines whether bills receive a floor vote. If the full Senate passes the bill, it would need to return to the House for final approval before lawmakers adjourn at the end of the month.

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