HB 280, better known as Campus Carry, came out of a conference committee with new clauses and exceptions that are said to be straight from Governor Deal. If true, that should make him more likely to sign the legislation that he vetoed last year.
But here’s a couple things he should consider before making that decision. One of his dealbreakers*, as indicated by his public statements on the issue and indicated by lawmakers who were privy to his demands, was an exemption from the bill for faculty and administrative offices. Those on the conference committee and the bill sponsors said they gave it to him. But did they? Here’s the exception:
(v) Not apply to faculty, staff, or administrative offices or rooms where disciplinary proceedings are conducted
At first glance, it may seem that is a double clause, serving to do two things. 1) remove “faculty, staff, or administrative offices” and then 2) remove “rooms where disciplinary proceedings are conducted.”
Sadly though, it may not. Because to do that you would need to have a comma after offices. Without that comma, it’s just two clauses both modifying “offices or rooms.” This reading becomes even more persuasive when you consider that both of these area exceptions, if they were meant to be separate, could, and perhaps should, have been put into different clauses. That’s how “Move on When Ready” and career academies were handled in the same bill.
So unless faculty offices are also rooms where “disciplinary hearings are conducted”, they would NOT be exempted. Let’s just ignore whether these rooms are off-limits only when they are being used for disciplinary hearings or whether they are off-limits from carrying at all times because sometimes they host disciplinary meetings (makes less sense, but that’s what the bill says).
Second is the problem of what amounts to a “disciplinary hearing.” Under Title IX, universities are encouraged to handle complaints of sexual assaults and the like outside the campus disciplinary process, and these take place in what are called “grievance procedures.” So would the rooms where a rapist confronts his victim not be off-limits, such that he can be wearing a gun while he does it?
So have the exceptions that Governor Deal mandated actually been met? It seems like the answer may be no. And lest you think a court wouldn’t look at language, grammar, and punctuation in deciding the meaning of a statute, I give you two recent cases. First, one up in Maine where the legislature’s failure to include an Oxford comma meant that certain types of work were not excluded from overtime, and another where whether a child molester stayed in jail turned on how the Supreme Court viewed another comma.
So it is an open question whether Governor Deal got the exceptions he bargained for. The conferees may have intended to give him the exceptions, but statutory drafting is a detail-intensive process, and negotiating points while simultaneously setting them down on paper that will be looked at in the light of day is difficult at any time, and well-nigh impossible at 12:30 in the morning on Sine Die.
Given that the last time Georgia enacted sweeping gun legislation (2014’s HB 60, the so-called “Guns Everywhere” law), a much less difficult statutory problem prompted legal action, it seems likely this one would as well.
So if the Governor didn’t get what he want, will he still sign it?
*this pun, sadly, is intended.