Gov. Nathan Deal has vetoed the 'Campus Carry' bill.

Tuesday marked the deadline for Deal to make his decision whether to sign or veto the legislation. The bill would have legalized concealed-carry weapons on Georgia's public college campuses.

After the religious freedom bill, which Deal vetoed earlier this year, HB 859 was arguably the most contentious.

Critics and proponents of the bill had been equally vocal about what the governor should do with the bill. Just last week, students rallied on UGA's campus in opposition to the bill. Meanwhile, members of the NRA have urged its Georgia gun owners to speak out.

In the days leading up to the bill, neither side was certain which way the governor's decision is leaning.

A spokesperson for the governor told 11Alive political reporter Doug Richards the Governor will not let the bill "slide" into law with inaction. He would either veto or sign the bill.

Just after 5 p.m., Gov. Deal posted a statement on his website explaining the veto.

"From the early days of our nation and state, colleges have been treated as sanctuaries of learning where firearms have not been allowed," Deal said. "To depart from such time honored protections should require overwhelming justification."Click here to read the full statement.

Deal did say that he issued an executive order to the heads of Georgia's public colleges to submit a report of what security measures are in place at each college campus. It also called upon the leaders of the communities where the colleges are located to review and improved security measures surrounding colleges.

Deal also suggested that the General Assembly consider increasing penalties for the unauthorized possession and/or use of a firearm on a college campus.

After the veto was announced, Speaker of the House of Representatives David Ralston issued a statement saying:

“I am deeply disappointed by Governor Deal’s decision to veto House Bill 859 – the Campus Safety Act. While I respect the Governor and his right to act as he has, I believe this measure is sound and reasonable. This bill was thoroughly debated. At no time before final passage by the Senate were any concerns raised that were not addressed.

“At a time when our Second Amendment rights are under attack, I believed and still believe that it is very important that we do all that is necessary and proper to strengthen our constitutional protections. Georgians should not be required to give up their constitutional rights when they set foot on a college campus.

“This is not the end of this discussion. I will continue to defend and protect the rights of law-abiding Georgians under our Second Amendment.

“I want to again thank Rep. Rick Jasperse, Rep. Mandi Ballinger, Rep. John Meadows and Rep. Alan Powell for their leadership and tireless efforts on behalf of this bill.”

NRA spokesperson Catherine Mortensen issued a statement in response to the expected veto saying:

“We agreed with Governor Deal when he said that the arguments against the campus safety bill lacked validity. He was right then, but he is wrong today. It is unfortunate that Governor Deal vetoed a bill that would have made Georgia campuses safer for his constituents. The NRA is thankful to Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and the legislators who worked to protect law-abiding citizens’ constitutional right to self-defense on campus and we look forward to working with them next session to pass this important safety legislation.”

Outcry, a coalition of Georgia clergy, issued a statement praising the veto. Rabbi Peter S. Berg of The Temple said:

“As a rabbi, I applaud Gov. Deal’s veto of HB 859. I’m relieved that the safety of our students is being put first, and that our schools will not be transformed into places of fear and violence. It is irrational and irresponsible to believe that allowing students, faculty, and administrators to carry guns will somehow make Georgia’s college campuses safer. As people of faith, we have a moral responsibility to protect our communities from gun violence. The veto of Campus Carry is a step in the right direction for Georgia.”

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