Red, Blue, & You: We Can’t Wait Any Longer
Georgia has an opportunity to be a pioneer in the South for protecting gun rights while keeping guns out of the wrong hands.
In this country, there are few topics as hyperpolarizing as guns. There are also few countries in the world that share our passion for firearms, which puts us in a unique position.
In terms of firearms per capita, the United States ranks No. 1 by far, nearly doubling the rate of the country closest to us, the Falkland Islands, which has a population of a few thousand people. For every person in the U.S., there are 1.2 guns. In other words, we are the only country in the world in which there are more guns than people.
This can partially be attributed to the Second Amendment, guaranteeing the right to bear arms. It is an amendment and a right that I support, one that was put in place by our Founding Fathers as a safeguard against any future tyranny. Unfortunately, this right seems increasingly interpreted to mean “the freedom to have as many guns as you want, whenever you want, wherever you want, regardless of skill, training or responsibility.”
That interpretation has led to devastating consequences which now seem to stare us in the face on an almost daily basis. Most horrifically, guns are the leading cause of death for children between the ages of 1 to 19, with over 4,000 children killed by guns in 2020 alone, the last year for which data is available.
There is no comparable country in the world where that is the case – guns don’t even rank in the top five among any of our peers. The epidemic of gun violence is a uniquely American problem.
Unfortunately, even the most moderate proposals to keep guns out of the wrong hands and out of the wrong places are met with deafening opposition.
We have accepted that there are limitations on our other rights. The Second Amendment should be no exception. For example, there are First Amendment limits on incitement to violence, child pornography and defamation, among others. Citizens are required to register, present ID and often jump through other hoops to exercise their right to vote.
Georgia has an opportunity to be a pioneer in the South for how to protect the rights of responsible gun owners while keeping guns out of the wrong hands. In an average year, 1,603 people die and another 4,492 people are wounded by guns in our state, giving us the ninth-highest rate of gun violence in the country. This includes the deaths of 146 children and teens, making it the leading cause of death for young people in Georgia, of which 63% are homicides.
While mass shootings are a significant part of the problem and certainly the most visible, they do not represent most of the gun-related injuries and deaths. The incidents resulting in injury and death are smaller and have become so commonplace that they do not always attract headlines. They happen because people don’t put their guns away and because guns have proliferated to the point that they have become trivial to purchase, often illegally. At the core, they happen because people who should not have guns do have guns.
There are countless small steps that we can take to protect our children and families without infringing on the rights of our law-abiding citizens. Simply requiring training and live-fire practice could make a huge difference in perpetuating a culture of responsibility in gun ownership.
There are other laws that we know work as well. Perhaps the most effective at stopping preventable deaths are gun-storage safety laws, which require owners to keep their firearms under lock and key when they are not being carried. This prevents children from finding them by accident, as well as criminals from stealing them. Municipalities have room to maneuver in this space as well, as evidenced by Atlanta City Councilman Antonio Lewis, who championed legislation that passed in January offering free gun-lock boxes to Atlanta residents.
Gun safety laws are not a panacea. Violence runs rampant throughout our state and country for many reasons, widespread poverty and desperation and lack of access to mental health resources being two of the top reasons. We have a lot of work to do to treat the root causes of the anger and fear that lead to injury and death, but those solutions will take years, if not decades, to implement. However, we can act today to save our children. Every day delayed is another life lost.