It is not over. Just weeks ago, Americans were encouraged to see a national consensus emerging that enforceable, uniform background checks on all gun purchases, whether from retail stores or gun shows, would become a reality. Had the old mantra, “Guns don’t kill people, people do,” lost its sway? Were we finally facing the reality that too often, irresponsible people with guns kill other, innocent people?
One U.S. Senate filibuster later, our voices were drowned out, and the prospect of a national uniform approach to background checks seemingly evaporated.
State laws remain inadequate substitutes for national legislation. Based on the actions of the last legislative session, Georgia’s lawmakers are more interested in expanding gun rights than in protecting those at the other end of the barrel. For example, when Georgia state Sen. Emanuel Jones sponsored SB 161 which, among other things, would have banned the licensing of firearms to all people with mental disabilities regardless of their form of treatment, it went nowhere. Under existing law, only in-patient, hospitalized people with mental illnesses are barred from gun ownership. Given that outpatient alternatives and drugs are the predominant form of treatment for mental illness today, Georgians are unknowingly at risk due to this huge gap in protection.
Now let’s compare the Gold Dome’s treatment of SB 161 to its treatment of HB 981. Despite the absence of any significant outcry for the need to carry concealed weapons into public places, HB 981, among other things, authorized the carrying of concealed weapons in churches, on campuses and in courts, if those institutions so elected. Encouraging people to carry weapons into group settings is risky with no meaningful benefit that I could see. Yet, here comes HB 981, in part, to allow each side of the gun rights issue to identify who were supporters and opposition of expanding gun rights and thus targets for funding and future election opposition.
Such expansions should be used more sparingly, yet HB 981 only died on the last day of the session.
As a gun owner, I find current laws allow me to use my guns in a responsible way without undue restriction. Personal accountability for safe practices and sound processes have always been for me a non-negotiable requirement of gun ownership. More gun rights such as HB 981 pushes the pendulum too far towards risky, irresponsible gun behavior.
Fortunately, mandatory background check legislation is still alive in Congress, according to one of its sponsors, Sen. Joe Manchin. The filibusterers are nowhere listed, as they shamelessly derailed the bill without an open floor debate. It is time to hold the filibusterers accountable. We need to continue to push for universal and enforceable background checks, a simple, commonsense approach to reduce violence by persons who are irresponsible or incompetent to handle such weapons. For one thing is certain: Silence and complacency kills.