Republican infighting over whether or not to allow guns on Georgia's college campuses ultimately killed sweeping gun legislation in the state Thursday night.
Georgia's annual 40-day legislative session adjourned just before midnight, prior to a final vote on a measure that would have allowed guns at churches, college campuses and public buildings. It also would have allowed select school administrators to be armed at schools.
Most Republican lawmakers expressed interest in passing gun legislation this year.
“The most fascinating part from yesterday was how the struggles were not between the Democrats and Republicans," state Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta) said. "The struggles were between Republicans and Republicans. All the fighting yesterday was between the GOP.”
The bill failed after House and Senate Republicans could not agree on the guns-on-campus provision. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that House Republicans agreed on a provision mandating an eight-hour gun safety class for those 21 to 25 who wanted to carry guns on campus, but balked when Senate Republicans wanted to expand the classes to anyone who wanted to carry on campus. The bill allowed guns anywhere on a college campus except dorms, athletic facilities, and fraternity and sorority houses.
The guns-on-campus issue has been hotly contested, drawing opposition from the leaders of Georgia's public higher-education community and legislative Democrats.
Holcomb noted that the disagreements came after a series of changes to the bill. The original legislation was meant to allow Georgia to recognize gun permits from other states, to allow guns in public housing and to allow honorably discharged veterans under 21 to receive gun permits. Holcomb agreed with those provisions.
“What was unfortunate about that is there are provisions that were common sense and could have passed," Holcomb said. "The fact that they blended it all into one bill meant nothing passed.”
The provision allowing guns on campus and in public buildings were added later. Allowing guns in churches, along with allowing school districts to designate administrators to carry guns were also amendments to the bill.
Holcomb said that he expects the bill to return next year, a view Republican legislators echoed to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Holcomb noted that this means the 2014 legislative session will be dominated by gun issues, like the 2013 session.
Holcomb is curious to see where legislative Republicans go from here.
“What will be interesting to see is, they cannot blame the Democrats," he said. "This a 100 percent GOP ... inability to move any of this legislation. They failed.”
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