ATLANTA (Reuters) - Georgia lawmakers have passed a measure to remove a state ban on firearms in bars, churches and college classrooms, a move aimed at expanding gun rights at a time when other state and federal leaders consider new limits.
In a 117-56 vote on Thursday, the Republican-led House of Representatives approved the measure seeking to restore gun carry rights that have been chipped away over the years, said one sponsor, state Representative John Meadows, a Republican.
In addition to college classrooms, the legislation also would allow licensed gun owners to take their weapons inside some other unsecured government buildings where they are currently banned, starting on July 1. They would still be outlawed from college dormitories and sporting events, Meadows said on Friday.
The bill doesn't specify or make any exemptions on the types of weapons, and applies to all legal guns, Meadows said.
Representative Karla Drenner, a Democrat, criticized the measure, saying it was part of a backlash against the national push for stronger gun control laws following the December shooting rampage that left 26 people dead at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
"Anything that national Democrats are talking about, Georgia conservatives want to make sure that Georgians don't get to do it," said Drenner, an instructor at several colleges.
She said she was worried about confrontations with angry students, recalling on Friday how a student once screamed at her for mispronouncing his name.
"If he had a gun, the outcome could have been much different," she said.
Asked about Drenner's concerns, Meadows said, "She ought to be armed."
The measure moves to the Senate, where Meadows predicted it will pass, based on the enthusiastic response he said he has received from fellow legislators in the upper chamber.
Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer, a Republican, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the Senate may not vote on the bill this year.
However, in a statement on Friday, he said the measure would be assigned to a Senate committee next week.
"We look forward to considering this legislation," Shafer said. "The Senate passed strong pro-Second Amendment legislation of its own, and I am confident that we will reach agreement with the House."
If the Senate approves the measure, Governor Nathan Deal, a Republican, must sign it before it becomes law.
On Friday, Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said the governor agrees with language in the legislation that would make it more difficult for the mentally ill to obtain licenses to carry concealed weapons.
Robinson declined to comment on whether Deal endorses other portions of the legislation.
(Editing by Colleen Jenkins; and Jeffrey Benkoe)
(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2013. Check for restrictions at: http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp