When politicians refuse to consider gun control measures, the conventional wisdom is that it’s because Republican officials are in the thrall of the National Rifle Association.
It’s true that the top 10 recipients of the NRA’s largesse in both chambers of the U.S. Congress are Republicans. But in Georgia, Democrats also have been closely linked to the gun lobby.
The NRA endorsed Democrat Roy Barnes in both 1998, when he won the governor’s office, and in 2002, when he lost it to Republican Sonny Perdue.
Jason Carter, the Democratic nominee for governor in 2014, received an “A” rating from the NRA. In the legislature, he had voted for the so-called “guns everywhere” bill, which allowed weapons in bars, some churches and schools, and in unsecured areas of airports.
Georgia has a strong gun culture, which frequently conflates patriotism, religion, regional pride and devotion to the Second Amendment.
The two leading Democrats now running for governor both called for new gun restrictions last week after 58 people died in Las Vegas in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. But Republicans made it clear no gun control measure has a chance of being heard, much less passing. Even the suggestion that new laws might be in order offended many GOP politicians.
“What happened in Las Vegas is a horrific tragedy,” House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said. “Families have lost loved ones and the nation is grieving with them. It is both premature and reprehensible to inject politics into what are personal tragedies until the investigation of this incident is complete and while families are mourning.”
In the unlikely event that lawmakers chose to consider gun laws, they actually would have a lot of latitude.
While Georgia’s Constitution guarantees the right to keep and bear arms, it does so with a significant caveat.
“The General Assembly,” Article 1, Section 1, Paragraph VIII, goes on to say, “shall have power to prescribe the manner in which arms may be borne.”
Staff writers Greg Bluestein and Kristina Torres contributed to this article.