Georgia Dem lawmakers call for special session to pass gun safety laws after mass shootings

Call faces long odds in GOP-controlled Legislature 

By: - May 11, 2023 1:00 am

Minority Leader James Beverly speaks at the state Capitol along with fellow Democrats and gun safety supporters. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

A week after a gunman killed one woman in a Midtown Atlanta medical office and hospitalized four more, Georgia Democrats called on Gov. Brian Kemp to declare a special legislative session to consider laws aimed at protecting Georgians from being shot.

The day after the Atlanta attack, a shooter in Moultrie killed three women before turning the gun on himself.

“The epidemic of gun violence affects us all,” said Georgia House Minority Leader James Beverly, a Macon Democrat. “Parents send their children to school every morning with a pit in their stomach. Too many people have gone to church – churches, spas, doctor’s offices, grocery stores, malls, parks, concerts – and never returned home due to senseless violence. The growing threat that anyone could be next hangs over all Georgians. And our constituents don’t want to live like this anymore.”

Gun safety supporters at the Capitol. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

Beverly said Democrats filed 16 bills seeking to address gun violence this year, but none came to a vote in either GOP-controlled chamber. The yearly session ended in late March, and unless the governor calls for a special session, lawmakers are not set to return to the Capitol again until January.

Beverly said they need to come back as soon as possible to vote on bills that would institute background checks, safe firearm storage and a red flag law.

“Lives will be lost every day that Georgia leaders – Republicans – fail to lead,” Beverly said. “We say lead. Don’t hide. The time is now.”

Dozens of gun safety advocates who crammed onto the Capitol steps Wednesday chanted “now, now, now.”

Kemp’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Calling a special session to tackle gun laws would be out of character for the governor, who has styled himself as a champion of the Second Amendment.

Republicans control the Georgia House 101-78 and the Senate 33-23.

But advocates say they hope the tide is turning, pointing to a recent Fox News poll showing wide majorities of Americans supporting measures like background checks and red flag laws.

Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said he will bring that state’s Legislature back for a special session in August to consider gun safety measures following a Nashville school shooting that killed three children and three adults in March.

And gun safety advocates celebrated in the Texas Capitol Monday when a House committee advanced a bill raising the age to purchase some firearms from 18 to 21. Texans have witnessed two shocking attacks in recent weeks – one in which a man is accused of killing five of his neighbors, including a nine-year-old, and one in which a gunman killed eight, including a three-year-old.

Sen. Elena Parent. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

Some Georgia Democrats called it a sign of progress when a gun storage bill got a committee hearing this March. Republican leaders said they were willing to hear the measure but not hold a vote on it. A gun lobbyist at the hearing promised to “expose anyone who supports this bill, and that goes doubly true for any Republicans who betray us.”

Atlanta Democratic Sen. Elena Parent said she has had conversations with her Republican colleagues over the years who may be persuadable on some gun-related issues, but she said they are subject to “a very extreme, small but outsized group of individuals who are incredibly aggressive.”

“(They) come out immediately in force anytime any of my Republican colleagues begins to support a policy that I know in their hearts they do support and know makes sense,” she said. “Which is why I say that it must be countered by everyone here, and they must be thanked when they have the courage to endure the relentless, misogynistic terroristic threats that all of us, but probably especially them, face online the minute they dip their toe in the water that causes them to go running.”


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Ross Williams
Ross Williams

Before joining the Georgia Recorder, Ross Williams covered local and state government for the Marietta Daily Journal. His work earned recognition from the Georgia Associated Press Media Editors and the Georgia Press Association, including beat reporting, business writing and non-deadline reporting.