VP Kamala Harris returns to Atlanta to talk gun control

Vice President Kamala Harris was in Atlanta on Tuesday for the second time in five days, this time to push efforts to curb gun violence.

Harris took part in a summit held by the Rocket Foundation , a nonprofit created by Atlanta-area rapper Quavo of the Migos that works to end gun violence after his nephew and group member Takeoff was shot to death in 2022.

Harris’ visit came as the Biden administration continues to woo Black voters in pivotal states such as Georgia. Polling has shown some Black voters have become disillusioned with President Joe Biden and Harris, who need their votes to win a second term.

Harris said the Biden administration supports a variety of things to curb gun violence, including requiring background checks for every gun purchase and banning the sale of assault-style rifles.

“Too many people, who I will call cowards, have been pushing this false choice that you’re either in favor of the Second Amendment or you want to take everyone’s guns away,” she said.

Harris’ visit comes a week after FBI data for the first quarter of 2024 showed a 15% nationwide drop in violent crime from the first quarter of last year. Atlanta saw violent crime fall from 800 reported cases in the first three months of 2023 to 656 over the same period this year. However, the number of reported homicides in Atlanta increased from 23 in the first quarter of last year to 27 this year.

The Biden administration is taking credit for the decrease in crime, citing the president’s focus on gun control, including creating the Office of Gun Violence Prevention last year and sending $15 billion to states and cities in 2022 to invest in public safety improvements.

In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp awarded about $3.3 million from the federal grants to Atlanta and Fulton County. The Atlanta Police Department, Fulton County Board of Education and the county’s government and Sheriff’s Office used the grant money for things such as training, gun safety equipment and concealed weapons detection technology to be used at schools.

But Kemp’s office says it is more than federal money that’s helped to tamp down crime.

“I think it’s fair to say that if anyone is making the claim that $3.3 million in federal grants is what’s responsible for the reduction in violent crime in cities, then we must also consider the governor’s more than $2.8 billion in new spending on law enforcement and public safety initiatives and some of the laws passed to improve public safety,” Kemp spokesman Garrison Douglas said.

Douglas also cited laws approved under the Kemp administration, such as allowing the permitless carrying of guns and the creation of a gang prosecution unit.

Biden signed legislation to stop dangerous people from purchasing firearms by expanding the ban on those convicted of domestic abuse and sending more money to states that invest in the mental health system. It was the first bill aimed at tightening gun control that’s passed Congress in nearly 30 years.

Butch Ayers, executive director of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, said that while he’s unaware how specific police departments spent the federal grants, he knows that an investment in technology has helped to identify crime suspects and retrieve stolen cars.

But Ayers also said to take the quarterly FBI statistics with a grain of salt. He said he understands why some Georgians may not feel as though crime has decreased.

“The statistics may show that, in the nation, violent crime has gone down, but there might be stats that show that crime has increased in your neighborhood,” he said. “I always say perception is reality. At least it is their reality. If they don’t feel safe, then they’re not safe.”