Georgia Tech students in favor of carrying guns on campus
Georgia Tech campus
GA House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee
Patrick Parsons of Georgia Gun Owners
Packed audience for GA House Public Safety Committee gun bill hearing
File of handguns for sale in Georgia
Rep. Charles Gregory (R-Kennesaw)
Tom Daniel of University System of Georgia
Packed meeting of Georgia House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee
ATLANTA -- While President Obama and some of the rest of the nation are pushing stricter gun control laws, Georgia's State Legislature is debating looser gun laws.
The main argument behind them is that people should have the right to protect themselves from criminals or a deranged gunman.
Even though the rest of the legislature took the Presidents' Day holiday off, the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee spent a few hours hearing about some of those bills Monday afternoon.
Chief among them are House Bill 28, which would allow certain people to bring guns into churches that don't mind, and House Bill 29, which would allow certain people to bring guns onto college campuses.
In both cases, those people would have to be at least 21-years-old and have passed a criminal background check to get a Georgia weapons carry license.
Some churches oppose the legislation, but others have asked for permission to have armed members to help protect themselves from gun toting intruders.
Both bills are sponsored by freshman lawmaker Rep. Charles Gregory (R-Kennesaw) who campaigned heavily on the Second Amendment.
Monday he told the committee that Georgia's laws banning guns in churches and restricting them to locked cars on college campuses have created "gun free killing zones" where people are sitting ducks for attackers.
"It is cruel and immoral to deprive any individual's right to defend his or her person, much less to create these free target venues for the disturbed," Gregory said.
Supporters, like Patrick Parsons of Georgia Gun Owners, claimed armed responsible adults could help prevent the type of criminal attacks that have plagued some of Atlanta's urban campuses like Georgia Tech, Georgia State University and the Atlanta University complex.
"There's an old saying that police are usually minutes away when you have seconds, and what we've seen in these mass shootings, particularly the one at Virginia Tech, is there was nobody to fight back and it was a gun free zone," Parsons said.
But several university representatives opposed the bill, claiming more guns would only make campuses more dangerous.
"We feel like under the current arrangement, if we do have a situation on our campus where guns are there, when a law enforcement person arrives, they will know the difference between the good guys and the bad guys," said Tom Daniel of the University System of Georgia.
While taking testimony, the House Public Safety Committee put off voting on any of the bills until later.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 21 states (including Georgia) now ban carrying concealed weapons on college campuses, 23 states leave the decision up to individual colleges, and 5 states allow them, mainly due to recent court rulings.