It comes down to Gov. Nathan Deal as to whether guns will be allowed on Georgia college campuses, as House Bill 280 passed through the Georgia General Assembly on Sine Die, the last day of the legislative session.
The bill allows weapons carry permit holders to conceal carry firearms virtually everywhere on college campuses, with exceptions to student and Greek housing, sporting venues and daycare centers. A Senate Judiciary committee substitute added "any specialized school for high school students" as an addition exception. The substitute required the bill to go to back to the House after the Senate passed it on Tuesday.
On Thursday, the House disagreed with the substitute, which forced the bill into a conference committee, comprised of three members of the Senate and three members of the House, to agree on a final version.
Rep. Mandi Ballinger (R-Canton) said the House agreed with the idea behind the substitute, and was primarily concerned with the wording. The final version, however, not only cleared up the definition of a "specialized school," but also added exceptions for classes where high school students are enrolled and faculty or administrative offices used for disciplinary hearings.
The final version also specified that the concealed carry extends exclusively to handguns, and included a section regarding penalties for violators. Under that section, a violation would be a misdemeanor, though a first offense would only be a $25 fine.
Coming out of committee, Sen. Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville) said he felt the legislators came to an agreement that Gov. Deal could get behind.
At initial glance, the bill does appear to address many of Deal's concerns with a similar bill last year, including campus daycare centers and administrative buildings.
The bill then passed the House 96-70 and the Senate 33-21, sending the bill to Gov. Deal for a signature or a veto.
Ginn was the only one of five Athens area representative to vote in favor of the bill. Rep. Regina Quick (R-Athens) and Rep. Chuck Williams (R-Watkinsville) voted "No" to the revised bill after voting "Yes" to the original version earlier this month. After the vote, Quick said her change came as a result of "unclear exceptions."
The bill is the latest attempt to get concealed carry on college campuses. A similar bill last year, House Bill 859, also made it to Deal's desk, where he vetoed it following state-wide protests.
Protests and opposition to the bill have already started up this year.
Administrators have spoken out against the bill, including University System of Georgia Chancellor Steven Wrigley, who testified against it in the House and Senate committees. University of Georgia President Jere Morehead later endorsed Wrigley's testimony.
Campus police across the state have also expressed concern about campus carry bills throughout the years.
Students, faculty and Athens locals gathered at the Arch on March 20 to voice their opposition to the bill, concerned with personal safety and possible influences on sexual assault on campus.
Multiple polls of the UGA community show roughly two-thirds of students and faculty are opposed to concealed carry on campus.
Other surprising sources of opposition include Georgia U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, who said in a town hall he did not think the proposal was "the appropriate thing to do." State Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) voted "No" to the bill, despite voting "Yes" to House Bill 859 last year.
Deal has up to forty days after Sine Die to sign or veto the bill.