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Op-Ed: Brian Kemp is Moving Georgia Backwards on Gun Safety

June 2022
Op-Ed: Brian Kemp is Moving Georgia Backwards on Gun Safety

Over 5,200 people were denied a concealed carry permit in Georgia in 2020 when their background checks revealed prior criminal records, outstanding arrests, mental health flags, or domestic violence charges. Imagine the gun crimes that could have been committed if those thousands of individuals were allowed to carry guns on our streets.

Last week, Brian Kemp signed SB 319 into law, which means that individuals deemed unfit to carry a firearm based on a common sense background check can now carry hidden, loaded guns in public. In particular, this new law allows individuals who have a criminal history and have purchased a gun through a private sale to carry a firearm in our communities without a background check. As background checks are not required for private gun sales, the concealed carry permit system is one of the rare mechanisms that ensure that background checks are performed on those purchasing guns through private sales. Removing this requirement makes our communities less safe—plain and simple.

The governor signs this dangerous bill into law even as Georgia’s rate of gun deaths has increased by 41 percent from 2011 to 2020. Our state also ranks 17th highest in gun fatalities.

With worsening gun violence, anti-Asian violence has risen nationally. Hate crimes targeting members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community rose 73 percent in 2020, with a 150 percent increase in our country’s 15 largest cities. Across the nation, our community has seen firsthand how hateful rhetoric can lead to an increase in violence.

Here, in Georgia, we have directly experienced the connection between surging anti-Asian hate and vicious gun violence. Just thirteen months ago, eight people, including six Asian American women, were murdered in the horrific March 16, 2021 shootings in the Atlanta area. Yet, now with permitless carry as the law of the land, Georgia is going the opposite way on gun safety.

States that weakened their gun permitting laws saw up to a 15 percent increase in violent crime. States that passed permitless carry laws saw spikes of up to 65 percent in aggravated assaults with a gun. Brian Kemp’s reckless new law will lead to more gun violence in our communities.

With data showing that the permitless carry law is detrimental to public safety, law enforcement speaking out against it, mayors voicing their concerns, and 70 percent of Georgians opposing it, Kemp’s sudden push to sign it into law raises the question: Why now?

Sadly, there’s a simple answer—politics. Governor Kemp is seeking reelection this year, but he’s facing a formidable challenge in the Republican primary from David Perdue who has been endorsed by Donald Trump.

Without Trump’s endorsement of Perdue, we wouldn’t be seeing this new law. Kemp proposed the permitless carry initiative after Perdue entered the race and declared his support for such a measure. Kemp pushed this dangerous proposal through to appeal to Republican primary voters, with no concern about the public safety risks of guns being sold without background checks.

We should ensure background checks on every individual carrying a gun in order to prevent deadly weapons from falling into the wrong hands. But Kemp’s new law is moving us in the opposite direction by loosening safety checks.

No re-election campaign is worth endangering the lives of Georgians. We deserve better than a governor like Brian Kemp who puts his political career over public safety.

This op-ed has been jointly signed by five Georgia state legislators of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) descent: Senator Michelle Au, Representative Marvin Lim, Representative Bee Nguyen, Representative Sam Park, and Senator Sheikh Rahman.

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