Abrams tries to flip the script on guns and crime in Georgia

ATLANTA (AP) — As Republicans across the country prepare to attack Democrats with tough-crime platforms this fall, Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams is making guns a central focus of her race for governor. into a liability for the incumbent Republican government. , Brian Kemp’s re-election bid.

Abrams made Georgia’s gun laws a big part of a public safety plan he released Thursday that proposed reversing a number of laws Georgia Republicans have enacted since 2014 that decriminalized guns. can be taken and where can it be banned.

Democrats are also trying to take advantage of the divide over how the government should fight crime, arguing that Kemp and Republicans fall back on a failed lock-’em-up approach, focusing on less punitive approaches. The previous bipartisan push to concentrate is abandoned.

Republican Attorney General Chris Carr, one of Kemp’s closest aides, said it was “absolutely wrong” that Republicans abandoned reform efforts, adding that the GOP pushed through a mental health bill this year. Supports removal of nonviolent offenders, and wants to do more on drug addiction. ,

But he said Democrats are wrong to reject a Kemp strategy that has focused on cracking down on gangs, giving bonuses to police officers, and creating a special state unit focused on crime and street racing in urban areas. .

Carr said Democrats are “basically more interested in protecting violent offenders than they are in vulnerable communities.”

Strengthening gun restrictions is an issue that resonates with Democratic voters and could affect suburban white women and other swing voters at a time when the country is still reeling from mass shootings at a New York supermarket and Texas school. is in shock. Those and other shootings have added fresh urgency to a seemingly stalemate national debate over guns, with some congressional Republicans indicating a desire for at least small compromises.

Democrats are betting voters are “at breaking point,” as Georgia Democratic State Rep. Shea Roberts says, over Republicans’ decision to expand access to guns.

In 2014, Georgia lawmakers ruled that people could carry guns in additional places, including bars, churches and even airport security checkpoints. In 2017, they added college campuses to the list. And Kemp this year pushed forward a law that eliminated the need for permits for people to carry a concealed weapon in public. When he ran for governor in 2018 with provocative commercials, Kemp fulfilled a pledge in which he pointed a gun at the actor who played a role for one of Kemp’s daughters.

Roberts evicted a Republican lawmaker in an affluent Atlanta district in 2020 for running after his daughter described an active shooter drill at school two weeks before the 2018 school massacre in Parkland, Florida Was inspired.

“Things have only gotten worse since then,” Roberts said.

Abrams wants universal background checks for private gun sales, a red flag law to take guns away from people who pose a danger to themselves and others, and to block anyone who did a security job. Have removed the gun from buying another one under order.

University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock said polling showed that many Republican-leaning voters also felt Kemp and GOP state lawmakers made it legal to carry concealed carry guns without a permit.

“It was not a tremendously popular idea, even among Republican voters,” Bullock said. “Arguably the legislature was only listening to the toughest of staunch Republicans, not where the average Republican was on some of those issues.”

But even if Abrams wins, he is likely to face a Republican majority resistant to his proposals in Georgia’s legislature. Those majority are supported by vocal groups that oppose any agreement.

“People who really believe in their rights are going to believe in their rights,” said Jerry Henry, executive director of Georgia gun rights group GA2A.

Henry said he doubted Republicans would be willing to tighten Georgia’s laws. Such proposals would be viable only if Abrams “pulled a whole bunch of Democrats with him to the General Assembly,” Henry said. “And I’m not even sure all Democrats will go with that.”

Carr says Abrams and his opponent of attorney general, Democrat Jane Jordan, misread how Georgians feel about guns and shield themselves from crime.

“They are out of touch where Georgians are,” Carr said. “It is a fundamental human need to be safe and secure.”

Abrams wants to reconstitute a criminal justice reform council that made several reforms when Republican Nathan Deal was governor. Abrams campaign policy director Sarah Totonchi said Abrams would instruct the group to “take a close look at violent crime, why it occurs and what we can do to address it at the source”.

Abrams proposes to intervene with schools and families to prevent violence and expand job training and opportunities. She wants to convert some low-level traffic and drug offenses into civil offences. And she wants a “clean slate” law that would automatically clear criminal records if they don’t commit crimes again in a certain period of time.

Republican National Committee spokesman Garrison Douglas called the Clean Slate proposal a “felony-be-gone,” further evidence that Abrams is soft on the crime. Republicans are already attacking Abrams for being a board member of the Seattle-based Marguerite Casey Foundation, saying the group favors defunding or eliminating police.

Kemp, in turn, is under Democratic attack for taking $50,000 in campaign contributions from Daniel Defense, the Georgia-based company that manufactured the school assault rifle used in Uvalde, Texas.

Abrams’ crime plan is the third in a series of offensive moves aimed at turning the tables on issues championed by Kemp. After Kemp extended a temporary gas tax holiday in July, Abrams called for Kemp to extend it for the rest of the year. Kemp signed a $5,000 pay increase for teachers; Abrams responded by calling for an additional $11,000 average increase for teachers.

The question, Bullock said, is whether guns and other social issues will propel voters into a campaign where Republicans focus on the economy, with Kemp taking credit for economic development projects while the GOP hammers Democrats on inflation.

Because Kemp is now an incumbent in his election rematch with Abrams, “he has an arguably more challenging task this time than he did four years ago,” Bullock said. “So he has to try to neutralize those issues that can take away the economic message that the governor is pushing.”

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Bynum reported from Savannah, Georgia.

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