Kemp instead cited 21 other states that allow residents to carry guns without a permit to carry, and he hammered on pro-law enforcement messaging, adding that it should not only be the responsibility of law enforcement officers to protect the people. “In the face of rising violent crime across the country, law-abiding citizens should have their constitutional rights protected not undermined, and while this position […] has recently become popular for others as we enter the campaign season, my position has remained the same,” Kemp said. “I believe the United States Constitution grants the citizens of our state the right to carry a firearm without state government approval.”
The jab at Perdue in the statement was barely disguised. The arguably more problematic ex-legislator told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution two weeks after entering the governor’s race that he planned to endorse “constitutional carry” gun legislation, which maintains that gun owners not have to carry permits allowing them to carry their guns in public. “At a time when the woke left is threatening to confiscate our guns and take away our rights, Georgia needs a bold leader who will make waves to get things done – not a career politician who hasn’t delivered,” Perdue said.
(Someone should probably tell Perdue and the like that the opposite of woke is asleep, and that might not be the best reason to vote for a person, but I digress.)
Rebecca Galanti, spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Georgia, called a spade a spade in a statement about the Kemp and Perdue race to endanger the general public. “It’s despicable that Brian Kemp is willing to endanger Georgians’ lives for the sake of his re-election campaign. Kemp’s reckless proposal to make our state less safe is nothing more than a desperate ploy to appeal to the GOP’s increasingly far-right base – and we know David Perdue would sell Georgians out to the gun lobby just the same,” Galanti said. “As Brian Kemp and David Perdue remain locked in a race to the bottom and Georgia Republicans hijack the upcoming legislative session for political theater, Democrats remain focused on protecting Georgians’ lives and making our state a safe place for families to prosper.”
Gun safety advocate and Rep. Lucy McBath of Georgia tweeted a similar message. Her 17-year-old son, Jordan Davis, was killed when a white man who complained that the teen’s music was too loud shot him in 2012 at a Florida gas station. “Irresponsible gun laws like this ripped my family apart,” McBath said, “and I am tired of our leaders turning a blind eye to safety.”
A law allowing gun owners to carry their weapons without a permit to carry was not in effect in Florida at the time of Davis’ death, but Republican legislators have been trying to push legislation through in the state. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said when asked that “of course” he would sign a constitutional carry bill. State Rep. Anthony Sabatini filed the proposed legislation in Florida. “The presence of firearms makes (violent) people think twice about what they are going to do,” he told NBC-affiliated WFLA.
It’s not an explanation that even attempts to answer the question of how such legislation makes it safer for Floridians deemed violent simply because of the color of their skin. Neither Kemp nor Perdue has offered one either, for that matter. They don’t seem to see the Black Lives Matter activists and supporters who took to the streets last summer in protest of racism and police brutality as worthy of protection.
Even before the protests, Kemp made light of his responsibility to protect Georgians from gun violence. Abrams retweeted a post from Campaign Manager Lauren Groh-Wargo on Wednesday referencing an ad in which Kemp pointed a rifle at a teenager to get his message across in 2018.
“The same guy who pointed a gun at a teenager on TV now panders with reckless proposals threatening Georgia lives,” Groh-Wargo said in the tweet. “As her opponents run to dangerous extremes and fight desperately to salvage their political careers, @staceyabrams is fighting for Georgians and their safety.”
Abrams came 55,000 votes short of beating Kemp when she ran against him the first time, when Kemp was the very person tasked with overseeing the election as secretary of state. Refusing to allow the defeat to snuff out her progress, Abrams turned her loss into a win for Democrats throughout the state.
She worked with the New Georgia Project nonprofit to register an estimated 800,000 new voters, mostly people of color and young people often overlooked in the state, ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Many credit her work for helping President Joe Biden beat Trump, particularly in Georgia. The state that hasn’t backed a Democrat for president since Bill Clinton in 1992 flipped from red to blue in the last presidential election, and Democratic Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock unseated Republican incumbents Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in a runoff election last January. Since then, Abrams has not changed her stance on the issues that are important to her, from voting rights to gun safety.
She was asked in 2018 at a town hall in McDonough if she was going to take guns away, and she said then: “I am not planning to confiscate and ban guns. This is what I say. I grew up in Mississippi. My great-grandmother taught me how to shoot a shotgun early. She taught me two things: One, only shoot things you plan to eat if you’re going to go hunting. I basically eat chicken, so it’s pretty much a wash.
“No. 2, the person who is most responsible is the person who holds the firearm. The first thing you learn is that you’re responsible for safety, and you’re responsible for the safety of those around you.”
What legislation should elected officials actually be prioritizing in Georgia to protect residents?