Licensed gun owners in Georgia will not have free reign to carry their weapons onto school and college campuses starting July 1, according to Attorney General Sam Olens.
Olens released a set of frequently asked questions on two gun bills lawmakers passed this year, in response to what he called “numerous inquiries from state agencies” about the new laws. He also cited “conflicts” between the two measures, House Bill 60 and House Bill 826.
HB 60, frequently called the “guns everywhere” bill, allows licensed gun owners to carry firearms in bars, in churches that “opt-in” and in government buildings without security screening checkpoints.
Separately, HB 826 changes the so-called “zero-tolerance policy” at schools, giving school administrators the freedom to determine the punishment for a student who brings a dangerous object, such as a fishing knife, to school. Under current law, schools are required to expel a student who violates the policy and report him or her to police.
Both bills go into effect on July 1.
Lawmakers struck language in HB 826 that said licensed gun owners were exempt from the law when picking up or dropping off a student. The gun advocacy group GeorgiaCarry.org said that effectively meant permit holders could carry on a campus at any time.
Governor Nathan Deal signed HB 826 on April 22 and signed HB 60 on the following day.
Olens argued in his FAQs that because Deal signed HB 60 after HB 826, the language in that bill prevails:
“House Bill 60 was signed by the Governor after House Bill 826 and is the later enactment, so the provisions of House Bill 60 control. Therefore, there is a general prohibition against carrying weapons in a school safety zone (which includes the real property or buildings of public or private elementary schools, secondary schools, technical schools, vocational schools, colleges or universities); however, a person who possesses a weapons carry license may have a weapon when carrying or picking up a student and may have a weapon in a vehicle that is in transit or parked within a school safety zone.”
Governor Deal released a statement on the issue Thursday afternoon, backing up Olens’ stance on the issue.
“During the bill signing period, I was presented with two pieces of legislation regarding the Second Amendment rights of Georgians who have gone through a background check to legally obtain a Georgia Weapons Carry License,” read Deal’s statement. “While in the review process, it came to my attention that the two bills contained many overlapping provisions.I sought the opinions of the legislative counsel and my executive counsel regarding the possible legal conflict. I signed HB 60 after HB 826 to ensure the major substantive provisions in HB 60 became law. In doing so, any contradicting language was conflicted out in favor of the last bill signed.”
Georgia Carry, however, disagreed with the state’s legal interpretation of the issue, saying the language regarding campus carry in both bills can be reconciled.
"The courts have an obligation to make every effort to give effect to every word passed in every bill, and the effect of the Attorney General’s opinion is to suggest that many of the words of HB 826 be ignored," John Monroe, an attorney for Georgia Carry, wrote in a news release.
The group plans to fight the issue in court.
Stay with GPB.org for continuing updates on this story.