ATLANTA — Two Georgia Congressmembers are demanding action from their fellow lawmakers to put federal gun-safety bills to a vote -- but their call to arms is being met with silence on Capitol Hill.
"No action has taken place in light of these recent tragedies," U.S. Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock, (D) GA, said. "And what's more is, there's virtually no conversation."
Warnock, along with Rep. Lucy McBath, (D), GA-7, can't seem to explain the inaction. Both cite polls that say most people in the U.S. want Congress to pass universal background checks on gun buyers, for example, even in private sales.
“Just one example of the type of solutions most Americans, on the left and the right, want to see," Warnock said. "And still we can’t even get that done."
McBath, who represents Georgia's 7th Congressional District, lost her son to gun violence a decade ago. She urged other members of Congress to join the fight for what she calls minimal, "common sense" regulations to purchase firearms.
“And to all those on this Hill who stand in the way of these families," she said, "who doubt these mothers, these fathers, these young people on a mission" to see gun-safety laws enacted, "I say 'woe to you,' who block our path towards progress... We will win this fight to live in our communities in freedom, the freedom to go about our day and not be gunned down in our malls, in our churches, and in our schools."
It has been a year since Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp enacted the new state law authorizing people to carry guns in Georgia openly without a permit.
Kemp signed the bill, on April 12, 2022, at Rome Smith's gun shop, Gable Sporting Goods, in Douglasville.
Smith said Thursday he is sure that if voters wanted gun restrictions, then lawmakers would pass them.
“Him signing the bill was really just an acknowledgment of the right that we have to defend ourselves," Smith said. "People are still doing terrible things. They're going to continue to do terrible things. They're doing it all over the world. The difference here, I think, in the U.S., is that we still have a Constitutional right to defend ourselves from that evil. It's the best protection we have."
Instead of gun restrictions, Smith suggests posting armed security, along with police, in as many places as possible around the clock, especially at "soft targets" such as schools and shopping malls, as a way of stopping mass shootings.
One measure of how popular guns are in Georgia is how often the FBI conducts instant background checks of people shopping for guns at licensed dealers. That number spiked during the pandemic in 2020 to more than 904,035, compared with 539,113 in 2019.
In 2021 there were 806,912 FBI instant background checks submitted by licensed gun dealers in Georgia.
In 2022 there were 601,407.
From January - April, 2023, there were 200,294.
Those numbers do not indicate how many firearms were actually purchased from licensed dealers, and there may have been more than one instant background check submitted for a single shopper over the course of any year.
Warnock and McBath are still trying to find a way for Congress to disarm criminals.
“So let’s work harder and be an answer to someone else’s prayer,” McBath said. "Let's work to heal our land from unnecessary gun violence. Together I know that we will end gun violence and we can live freely in our communities and in our lives the way God intended us to live."