Mayor Kelly Girtz and more than 40 other mayors across Georgia are asking Governor Brian Kemp and the Georgia General Assembly to finally take action on gun safety.
The group of mayors, which includes both Republicans and Democrats, wrote an open letter to Kemp and the Georgia General Assembly today urging them to adopt universal background checks, enhanced efforts to prevent illegal gun purchases, requirements for the safe storage of guns when not in use, funding for behavioral supports and a special focus on weapons “that are demonstrated to create rapid destruction through high capacity or rapid fire action.”
According to the CDC, 48,830 people died in the US of gun-related injuries in 2021, the most recent year statistics are available. That’s a 23% increase over 2019, enough to make guns a leading cause of death for most age groups and the top cause for children. In Georgia, the rate of gun deaths is even higher, with 20.3 deaths per 100,000 people here compared to 14.7 nationwide.
Gun safety measures like universal background checks are extremely popular – 92% of Americans favor them according to Gallup. More stringent gun control measures like banning high capacity magazines aren’t quite as popular, but still have majority support with 55% of the country favoring them.
Despite the overwhelming support for improved gun safety in both political parties, the Georgia state legislature has failed to act. Instead, legislators have actually made guns easier to carry in this state. For example, Kemp signed a bill in 2022 allowing the carrying of a concealed weapon without a permit. All of Athens’ state legislative delegation voted for this bill with the exception of Representative Spencer Frye (D). Another example is in 2017 when Governor Nathan Deal signed a bill allowing guns on college campuses.
The disconnect between voters’ wishes and public policy regarding guns may be due in part to lobbying by gun advocacy groups like the National Rifle Association and by pressure from far-right voters who tend to dominate Republican primaries in some parts of the state. Whether these 40 mayors have enough political clout to overcome these obstacles is yet to be seen.