Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia.

Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia. / Flickr

Legislation that would allow guns on Georgia’s public college and university campuses is one step closer to passage.

The “campus carry” bill made it through the state Senate Tuesday with a vote of 32-22 after more than an hour of debate.

The bill would allow anyone age 21 and up with a state-issued permit to carry a concealed handgun on university, college, and vocational school campuses across the state. It would bar them from sports facilities, student housing, and preschools.

“I’ll boil this down to a very simple question,” said Sen. Bill Heath (R-Bremen), the bill’s Senate sponsor. “Do you believe that law abiding background-checked citizens should be prohibited from providing for their own protection just because they choose to go to a college?”

Heath argued that Georgia’s colleges and universities had become increasingly unsafe and went as far as calling out the state Board of Regents, which opposes “campus carry” for failing to provide safe learning environments.

However, it’s still unclear whether passage of a “campus carry” bill would make Georgia’s colleges and universities safer.

Opposition to the legislation came from both sides of the aisle.

“I don’t know what the endgame is here, and I don’t know what this necessarily accomplishes, because there are so many holes in this thing,” said Sen. Fran Millar (R-Atlanta), referring to the many questions he still had about the bill.

For their part, Democrats returned to the same arguments they’ve leveled against “campus carry” in the past: that the bill would stifle academic freedom, lead to a “brain drain” of teaching talent, and actually make campuses less safe.

A recent study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health backs up the safety argument. It found guns on campus “have a deleterious impact on the safety of students, faculty, and staff.”

From here, the bill heads back to the House. They’ll have to approve it before it heads to Governor Nathan Deal, who vetoed a similar measure last year. That bill blocked guns from sports facilities and student housing, but didn’t bar them from preschools.

Deal still hasn’t taken an official stance on this year’s version.

The National Council of State Legislatures says nine states currently allow concealed weapons on public college and university campuses.