Governor Kemp Can’t Make Georgia Communities Safe If He’s Not Ready To Talk About Guns:

People embrace on May 27 at a memorial for the slain students and teachers of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Tex. (Joshua Lott/The Washington Post)

My name is Anne Allen Westbrook and I represent Georgia House District  163, Savannah and Chatham County. This week, Governor Brian Kemp gave his State of the State Address before a Joint Session of the House, Senate, and Judiciary. On the subject of public safety, the Governor touted “great strides [Georgia has made] curbing crime.” The facts, however, tell a different story.Georgia has the 9th highest rate of gun violence and the 12th highest rate of gun homicide in the U.S. In fact, gun deaths in Georgia increased by 41 percent from 2011 to 2020, compared to a 33 percent increase nationwide. Those statistics are tragic, but they are the sadly predictable result of Georgia’s gun laws. Georgia has some of the most dangerous gun ownership laws in the country and our rates of suicide, homicide, and unintentional shootings prove it.

Every year, 932 people in Georgia die by gun suicide, and an additional 64 are wounded by gun suicide attempts. In Georgia, someone dies by gun suicide every ten hours, on average.

In Georgia, 81 percent of all homicides involve a gun, with an average of 730 dying by gun homicides per year. Over 1500 people in Georgia are wounded by gun assaults, annually. Guns are now the leading cause of death for Georgia children and teens— not motor vehicle accidents, not drownings—guns.

Dangerous gun laws also cost Georgians in dollars and cents. Gun deaths and injuries cost Georgia $23.9 billion each year, of which $597.8 million is paid by taxpayers at a rate of $2,249 per resident per year.

Before it was repealed last year, Georgia’s permitting system helped keep Georgians safe by making sure that people carrying concealed handguns in public passed a background check. States that have weakened their permitting systems have seen both handgun homicide and assault increase by more than 10 percent.Georgia does not require background checks by unlicensed sellers, so anyone may purchase a gun through a private sale with no background check at all. Under Georgia’s new permitless carry legislation, which the Governor signed last year, more guns are in more hands-on Georgia streets without the safeguards necessary to keep Georgians and their families safe.

Georgia House Democrats have already introduced legislation this session that would close the private sale loophole to require universal background checks and legislation that would institute a mandatory 3-day waiting period. And there is more to come—including legislation that will keep guns safely stored and out of the hands of people who should not have them–to protect our children, our families, our communities, and our law enforcement officers.

The health and safety of our state matter. Georgia House Democrats won’t stop at making sure the lives of the people of Georgia remain our state’s top priority.

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