We do things differently here. The shooting incident at an elementary school in Newtown, CT, that resulted in the deaths of 20 young children has prompted several states and Congress to consider laws that would reduce the number of firearms in public places. In Georgia, our elected representatives have never worried about that. They just want to keep expanding the number of guns that people can carry outside the home.
Five days after the Newtown massacre, a newly elected legislator from Cobb County, Charles Gregory, introduced several bills that would allow guns to be carried in virtually any public place, including college campuses. During the current legislative session, the House of Representative has already passed a bill that will allow retired judges to carry firearms. Another bill authorizing administrators to carry firearms in schools is moving through the House and may get a floor vote soon.
This fascination with firearms has been a feature of the General Assembly for the past several sessions. Back in 2010, a bill was introduced by Sen. Mitch Seabaugh (R-Sharpsburg) that, in its original version, would have allowed persons with criminal records and former mental patients to apply for gun carry permits. His bill would also have legalized the carrying of firearms in the parking lots of K-12 schools and on college campuses. Think about the consequences of Seabaugh’s bill becoming law (which it did not). It would have allowed mental patients to carry firearms in the vicinity of K-12 schools. Great idea! What could possibly go wrong with that?
During one of the debates on gun bills that session, some legislators questioned the wisdom of allowing guns in taverns and other places where alcohol is consumed.
“There’s not a significant problem to that,” Seabaugh contended. “We’ve not had problems with people carrying [guns] and consuming alcohol in the state of Georgia.”
I’m sure the senator was correct. You certainly never hear about people getting drunk and then pulling out a pistol and shooting somebody. That just never happens in our great state.
Just the other day, the state Senate was debating a bill that would authorize licensed professional counselors to involuntarily commit people they suspect are mentally ill. The discussion of the bill touched upon the recent incident in Newtown, where a mentally troubled young man killed those 20 school children with a semi-automatic rifle.
Sen. Bill Jackson (R-Martinez) jumped into the debate, irritated that his colleagues would even bring up the subject of guns in a discussion about the mentally ill. Jackson is a tile distributor and gospel singer from Columbia County whose booming vocal delivery is a familiar sound in the Senate chamber.
“They killin’ people with frying pans; they killin’ people with hammers,” Jackson thundered. “There’s more murders with hammers last year than there was shotguns and pistols and AK-47s. Let’s help the people that need the help. That’s the end of this story, thank you very much.”
It’s an impressive argument, but it doesn’t hold up when you look at the actual numbers about the causes of murders that the FBI compiles each year.
According to the FBI’s national reporting, 8,538 people were murdered in 2011 by a firearm. In the category labeled “Blunt objects [clubs, hammers, etc.],” the number of people murdered was 496. That would indicate that 17.2 people were murdered by a firearm for every one person who was killed by a blunt object such as a hammer or a frying pan.
Jackson was mistaken in his remarks, but that’s not unusual. When it comes to firearms, our legislators generally don’t worry themselves about such irrelevant things as “facts” and “data.” After all, as Jackson might say, when frying pans are outlawed, only outlaws will have frying pans.
Tom Crawford is editor of The Georgia Report, an Internet news service at gareport.com that reports on government and politics in Georgia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.