Georgia is in a weird position on campus carry because it passed two laws with different language recently. Students for Concealed Carry explain after the jump. This law would clarify the situation legislatively, rather than waiting for a court to do it -- which could result in someone who thought they were obeying the law going to jail, if the court decides against them.
Oddly, HB 859 seems to undo a feature of Georgia's weapons carry laws I normally tout as a highly desirable feature: it severs handguns from knives. I often prefer to carry a knife instead of a handgun, as it is useful in far more situations and eliminates the dangers of overpenetration, ricochet, and similar risks in highly populated areas. (Obviously, it does this at the cost of limiting your effective range, and knives require much more training and practice to be effective.) HB 859 would allow people who have undergone background checks and obtained the weapons carry permit to carry handguns only on school property (and not to sporting events).
This is the tale of two bills, HB60 and HB 826, both of which have been signed into law.
HB 60 is the somewhat famous “guns everywhere” bill that has gotten national press, and HB 826 is a bill primarily aimed at lessening the impact of “zero tolerance” polices at k-12 schools.
Copies of the bills show HB 826 was signed on Apr. 22 and HB 60 was signed on Apr. 23. The fact that HB 60 was signed last becomes relevant in our uncertainty, as we will explain further below.
The issue is that is relevant to our interests is both HB 826 and HB 60 modify the same section of Georgia law, namely section 16-11-127.1.
The current law as it exists today and will exist until July 1 says:
(7) A person who is licensed in accordance with Code Section 16-11-129 or issued a permit pursuant to Code Section 43-38-10, [may possess a concealed firearm] when such person carries or picks up a student at a school building, school function, or school property or on a bus or other transportation furnished by the school or a person who is licensed in accordance with Code Section 16-11-129 or issued a permit pursuant to Code Section 43-38-10 when he or she has any weapon legally kept within a vehicle when such vehicle is parked at such school property or is in transit through a designated school zone;
HB 826 changes this same section to read as follows:
A person who is licensed in accordance with Code Section 16-11-129 or issued a permit pursuant to Code Section 43-38-10, [may possess a concealed firearm] when he or she is within a school safety zone …
While one might think “school safety zone” would re-use the definition of school, this is not the case. The law provides a totally independent definition of school for the phrase “school safety zone”. “School safety zone” is defined by the bill to include any real property or building at a post-secondary educational institution (among other places).
The Governor of Georgia has gone on record saying that this language only allows parents to have firearms in vehicles. This is plainly absurd. The governor might wish it said that, but it doesn’t – it clearly says “any real property or building”. If HB 826 is the law, the campus carry is legal – it is that simple.
So is it that simple? Does this end the matter? Unfortunately no, because HB 60 changes the same section of law, to read as follows:
A person who is licensed in accordance with Code Section 16-11-129 or issued a permit pursuant to Code Section 43-38-10, [may possess a concealed firearm] when such person carries or picks up a student within a school safety zone, at a school function, or school property or on a bus or other transportation furnished by the a school or a person who is licensed in accordance with Code Section 16-11-129 or issued a permit pursuant to Code Section 43-38-10 when he or she has any weapon legally kept within a vehicle when such vehicle is parked within a school safety zone or is in transit through a designated school safety zone;
So, which bill is the law?
After extensive research on the matter, every court case we can find say that if two bills are signed into law during the same legislative session and have the same effective date (as is the case here; both go into effect July 1), then the the bill that is signed last wins if and only if there is an unavoidable conflict. Otherwise, both bills become law, even where the bills modify the same section. The changes from both bills are compared with the then current law and changes to the current law are made as both bills direct.
That means that if there is an unavoidable conflict, HB 60 controls, which is not favorable to our position. This order of control reduces our level of confidence regarding the certainty of the legalization of campus carry.
However, the Georgia state supreme court has been repeatedly clear that repeal by implication is not favored. Essentially, the courts have ruled that if there is any way to make two potentially conflicting bills work in the same universe, then that’s the correct result.
After consultation with various people, it is our opinion that HB 826 is not in direct conflict with HB 60. Some of the language that HB 826 struck out is used again in HB 60; as to this language, this would appear to be a conflict, so that struck out portion from HB 826 would be re-inserted. But most critically, the language from that we need from HB 826 comes via insert at the end of the struck out language, rather than in the middle of the struck out language. That means that all the struck out language that HB 60 needs can remain intact, and that the insert that HB 826 makes at the end is not conflicted by this need.