Minority Leader of the Georgia House, Dr. James Beverly, D-Macon, speaks during a press conference pertaining to gun safety on Wednesday, May 10, 2023 inside the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

On Wednesday, May 10th, the Georgia Democrats assembled at the South Steps inside the Georgia State Capitol asking for Governor Brian Kemp to call a special session to address gun safety reforms. The petitions come after a May 3rd shooting that took place inside a Midtown Atlanta doctor’s office which left one woman dead and four others injured and a shooting in Moultrie on May 5th which left three people dead before the shooter turned the gun on himself.

The Democrats are asking for the following: they are asking for background checks on all gun purchases (including private sales). Additionally, they want gun owners to be able to lock up their guns at home and empower the state to temporarily confiscate the guns from individuals that can endanger themselves and others.

“The urgency of Georgia’s gun violence epidemic warrants an equally urgent response,” said House Minority Leader James Beverly, a Macon Democrat. “Lives will be lost every day that Georgia leaders … Republicans … fail to lead. We say lead, don’t hide. The time is now.”

Currently, there is little appetite from Governor Kemp or the Georgia Republicans at-large for a special session. Notably, Governor Kemp won Georgia’s Republican gubernatorial primary in May 2018 on the heels of a campaign ad which portrayed the former Secretary of State pointing a shotgun at a kid named “Jake” when he requested to date one of Kemp’s daughters.

Jake read Kemp’s policy platform, and then Kemp turned to him, “And the two things if you’re going to date one of my daughters?” he asks.

“Respect. And a healthy appreciation for the Second Amendment, sir,” Jake replied.

“We’re going to get along just fine,” said Kemp as he cocked the shotgun in his lap.

Democrats have pointed to Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s recent requests for red flag laws after the killing of three children and three adults at The Covenant School in Nashville in March. Governor Lee will convene a special session in August to address gun reforms. Additionally, the Democrats cited a Republican-led committee in the Texas State Legislature which voted favorably in raising the minimum purchasing age of assault rifles from 18 to 21. 

Georgia State Senator Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, speaks during a press conference pertaining to gun safety on Wednesday, May 10, 2023 inside the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

“We are exhausted because we have spoken out, we have donated, we have lobbied and marched time and time again, begging for the violence to stop,” said State Senator Elena Parent, D-Decatur. “No right is absolute. All rights afforded to each of us must be balanced against other people’s rights. The Constitution may have a second amendment, but it starts with ensuring domestic tranquility.”

While the manhunt was underway in the aftermath of the shooting in Midtown, U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock rushed to the Senate Floor to deliver public comments. Warnock’s speech ironically came after a meeting with the U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer regarding gun reforms.

“But I hasten to say that thoughts and prayers are not enough,” Warnock said. “In fact, it is a contradiction to say that you are thinking and praying and then do nothing. It is to make a mockery of prayer. It is to trivialize faith. We pray not only with our lips, we pray with our legs. We pray by taking action.”

Georgia Republicans control both the House (by a 101-78 margin) and the Senate (a 33-23 margin). However, the Democrats believe the tides are favorably changing toward a standard of gun violence prevention. According to a FOX News poll conducted between April 21-24, 2023, 87% of respondents are in favor of background checks, 81% of respondents are in favor of establishing the minimum age requirement for gun purchases. Additionally, 80% of respondents want mental health checks to be a requirement and the same number of people agree with red flag laws.

“Georgia is the number one state to do business and Georgia should also be the number one state to protect their citizens,” explained State Rep. Rhonda Burnough, a Democrat from Riverdale. “And [Governor Kemp] has consistently said he doesn’t want to have any more programs like New York or California. But like New York and California, you should care about your people. That’s what we’re asking him to do is to support the citizens of Georgia.”

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...