As of Friday, March 15, House Bill 512 sits in the Senate Judiciary Non-Civil committee awaiting action from the conservative majority in the Georgia State Senate.
The 2013 session of the Georgia General Assembly is coming to an end, but after House Bill 512 passed the Georgia House by a vote of 117 to 56, the question remains whether Republicans will push this legislation through the General Assembly.
The primary sponsors of this bill are mainly North Georgia rural conservatives: Rick Jasperse (Jasper), John Meadows (Calhoun) , Jay Roberts (Ocilla), Mandi Ballinger (Canton), Alan Powell (Hartwell), and Dustin Hightower (Carrolton).
HB-512 , which would allow guns in previously restricted places, (bars, churches, coolege campuses, etc.) is being fought vigorously by advocates who support responsible gun control measures, but want to keep guns (concealed weapons by citizens) out of schools, places of worship and government buildings.
However, Georgia Republicans appear more determined in 2013 to 'rubber-stamp' a bill which was written almost verbatim by the state's gun lobby here in Georgia.
Last year, HB-981, the 2012 version , did not receive a vote. After the 2012 election, Republicans were able to increase their numbers. So will this embolden Republicans to over-reach and actually pass this proposed law?
State Senator Tim Golden from Valdosta is an example of one of the state senators who could decide whether HB-512 passes or not.
Valdosta State University has been consistent in their opposition to last year's HB-981 and against this year's HB-512.
The University System of Georgia has been adamantly against HB-512 and voiced their collective dissent through a letter signed by administrators, the Board of Regents along with its Chancellor.
According to a statement from the Board of Regents via The Daily Tribune:
“We are deeply concerned about proposed legislation in the Georgia General Assembly that would permit firearms on our campuses — in our classrooms, student centers, and our academic and administrative buildings. We firmly believe the current law promotes a safe learning environment for our students and working environment for our faculty and staff.”
For this flawed, irresponsible bill to die in committee or on the floor of the Georgia State Senate, students, faculty members of local colleges along with members of the community in predominately conservative-leaning districts will have to help convince their state senator that voting for this bill will have dangerous unintended consequences and voters won't forget in 2014 when they are up for re-election.
In Paulding County's Daily Tribune, a statement was given from Georgia Highlands College in North Georgia which provides context and perspective:
Watterson furthered explained that short-sighted and reckless legislation like HB 512 would hinder current operations on campus regarding student and faculty safety.
“Georgia Highlands College has a non-gun carrying college safety presence only on our campuses. To allow this bill to become law, you would put our system of safety management into immediate jeopardy,” Watterson said. “Our small team would be outnumbered, under-equipped and overwhelmed as they try and continue to do their job.”
Paula Braddock, who represents Paulding County and is the home of Georgia Highlands College, is a Republican state representative who supported HB-512.
The following is a Top 10 list of Georgia State Senators that should be pressured because they reside in districts that have college campuses and a student population which could have an impact on their re-election bids in 2014 if they vote for this legislation
1. Burt Jones (State Senate 25) Milledgeville's Georgia College and State University reside in this district. Jones also represents three precincts in Bibb County, near the city of Macon and there are multiple college campuses such as Mercer University, Macon State College and Wesleyan College.
2. Frank Ginn (State Senate 47) University of Georgia
3. Cecil Staton (State Senate 18) Mercer University, Macon State, and Wesleyan College
4. Ross Tolleson (State Senate 20)
5. Dean Burke (State Senate 11)
6. Tim Golden (State Senate 8) Valdosta State University
7. Jack Hill (State Senate 4) East Georgia College, Georgia Southern
8. William Ligon (State Senate 3)
9. Tyler Harper (State Senate 7)
10. Jesse Stone (State Senate 23)