Abrams, Kemp push differing approaches to school safety

Georgia gubernatorial candidates Stacey Abrams, left, and Gov. Brian Kemp, right, speak at the Georgia School Boards Association conference in Savannah. (Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

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Georgia gubernatorial candidates Stacey Abrams, left, and Gov. Brian Kemp, right, speak at the Georgia School Boards Association conference in Savannah. (Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

Kemp talks about preparedness while Abrams demands new gun safety laws

Gov. Brian Kemp urged preparedness and his challenger Stacey Abrams touted gun safety laws as they each addressed school board members from across Georgia this week.

In a speech at the Georgia School Boards Association’s annual conference in Savannah, Kemp said the state’s public safety training center will train 300 school resource officers this year and provide them more opportunities for active shooter training. The Georgia Emergency Management Agency and Department of Education will also unveil an updated school safety plan later this month, according to Kemp.

“We have to remain vigilant and learn how to best spot the warning signs so that we can intervene before tragedy occurs,” the Republican said.

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SAVANNAH, GEORGIA - JUNE 10, 2022: Gubernatorial candidate Governor Brian P. Kemp speaks at the Georgia School Board Association Summer conference in Savannah. (Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

SAVANNAH, GEORGIA - JUNE 10, 2022: Gubernatorial candidate Governor Brian P. Kemp speaks at the Georgia School Board Association Summer conference in Savannah. (Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Combined ShapeCaption
SAVANNAH, GEORGIA - JUNE 10, 2022: Gubernatorial candidate Governor Brian P. Kemp speaks at the Georgia School Board Association Summer conference in Savannah. (Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Abrams called for background checks when purchasing firearms and closing gun purchasing loopholes. Referring back to her time in the state Legislature, Abrams said she still opposes the Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014 that allowed firearms to be carried in more places, which she called the “guns everywhere law.”

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Abrams, who participated in an interview at the conference, said safety measures are not enough. “We need to provide more resources so that we can protect our children inside, but we cannot abdicate our responsibility for protecting them from who’s outside the school,” the Democrat said.

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SAVANNAH, GEORGIA - JUNE 11, 2022: Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, right, speaks during the Georgia School Board Association Summer conference in Savannah. (Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

SAVANNAH, GEORGIA - JUNE 11, 2022: Gubernatorial candidate  Stacey Abrams, right, speaks during the Georgia School Board Association Summer conference in Savannah. (Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Combined ShapeCaption
SAVANNAH, GEORGIA - JUNE 11, 2022: Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, right, speaks during the Georgia School Board Association Summer conference in Savannah. (Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Abrams also said she opposes the bill passed this year that allows Georgians to carry concealed handguns without a permit.

“Georgia has to have gun safety laws that let us protect the Second Amendment and protect second graders at the exact same time,” Abrams said.

The gubernatorial candidates did not appear together, but it was one of the first times they have participated in the same event since the deadly mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

The candidates’ statements at the conference echo recent speeches and written statements since the mass shooting in Uvalde. Additionally, Kemp and Abrams both spoke of the importance of increasing access to mental health resources.

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SAVANNAH, GEORGIA - JUNE 10, 2022: Georgia state school superintendent and Republican candidate for re-election Richard Woods, left, speak with moderator Donna Lowry, right, at the Georgia School Board Association Summer conference in Savannah. (Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

SAVANNAH, GEORGIA - JUNE 10, 2022: Georgia state school superintendent and Republican candidate for re-election Richard Woods, left, speak with moderator Donna Lowry, right, at the Georgia School Board Association Summer conference in Savannah. (Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

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SAVANNAH, GEORGIA - JUNE 10, 2022: Georgia state school superintendent and Republican candidate for re-election Richard Woods, left, speak with moderator Donna Lowry, right, at the Georgia School Board Association Summer conference in Savannah. (Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

State School Superintendent Richard Woods, a Republican, and his Democratic challenger Alisha Thomas Searcy also participated in interviews at the conference.

Similar to Kemp, Woods emphasized readiness and reassuring the community, parents and students that “we’re prepared.”

“As a former coach, I recognize the the need for for preparation, for drill, for practices so that when game day does hit, you’re ready to go,” Woods said.

Woods said he and Kemp have worked well together, adding that “continuity of leadership is important.”

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SAVANNAH, GEORGIA - JUNE 10, 2022: Georgia state school superintendent candidate Alisha Thomas Searcy, right, speaks with Donna Lowry, left, during the Georgia School Board Association Summer conference in Savannah. (Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

SAVANNAH, GEORGIA - JUNE 10, 2022: Georgia state school superintendent candidate Alisha Thomas Searcy, right, speaks with Donna Lowry, left, during the Georgia School Board Association Summer conference in Savannah. (Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Combined ShapeCaption
SAVANNAH, GEORGIA - JUNE 10, 2022: Georgia state school superintendent candidate Alisha Thomas Searcy, right, speaks with Donna Lowry, left, during the Georgia School Board Association Summer conference in Savannah. (Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Searcy, a former state representative, said she can work with both parties to pass changes to enhance school safety. She said she spoke to her daughter after the shooting in Uvalde, and was taken aback when she said, “Well nobody’s going to do anything about it.”

She said part of her mission, if elected, would be to “make sure that my 15-year-old and my 8-year-old and my 4-year-old and the 1.8 million students in this state know that they have an adult who will do something.”