More than one thousand people rally in Atlanta for tighter gun laws

By Maggie Lee

The giant red cardboard letters spelling the word “moms” stood out in the gray Atlanta drizzle Wednesday, held up between the state Capitol and more than one thousand people rallying outside, demanding that the lawmakers inside tighten up gun laws.

Julvonnia McDowell, whose 14-year-old son JaJuan was shot and killed by a teen playing with a gun. Credit: Maggie Lee

Julvonnia McDowell, whose 14-year-old son JaJuan was shot and killed by a teen playing with a gun. Credit: Maggie Lee

Among the rally was mom Julvonnia McDowell, whose 14-year-old son JaJuan was shot and killed by a teen playing with a gun.

“I see so many survivors,” said McDowell, intensity straining her voice as it crackled through a bullhorn.

“As survivors we don’t get to hit restart, we don’t get to hit pause or get to do a do-over. Our lives change instantly and I’m speaking out because it’s time for action. We must demand our lawmakers do more to end this uniquely American issue because our lives and those of our children are worth fighting for,” she said, as the crowd started cheering.

The rally is an annual event, organized by Georgia chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, part of Everytown for Gun Safety; both are nonprofits. But this year it fell a week after 17 children were shot and killed by a confessed gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Hours after the Atlanta rally, President Donald Trump would hold a “listening session” with students and families affected by school shootings, as yet another school massacre led to more calls for tighter gun laws.

Dunwoody resident and University of Georgia student Mallory Harris was 3 years old when Columbine happened, part of a generation that grew up knowing of school shootings. She’s been a student organizer against college campus carry in Georgia. She brought more than 100 postcards from students of all ages to the Atlanta rally, all in support of what Moms and Everytown are trying to do.

“This is very directly affecting us, we don’t want to see any more of our peers slaughtered,” Harris said.

But in the last few years, the most high-profile gun legislation in Georgia has expanded the number of places where people can carry weapons: houses of worship, bars, and parts of college campuses.

The Moms and Everytown groups broadly seek what they call “common-sense” gun laws to end gun violence.

Specifically in Georgia, there are a few things on their agenda. They’re against so-called “permitless” carry bills. Several bills have been filed here and have appeared in other states, some of which have passed them. Broadly, permitless carry means that a person wouldn’t need a permit to carry a gun, though it would still not be lawful for, say, felons, or other people prohibited by law, to carry guns.

Such bills have been filed in Georgia at least as far back as 2015, but have not moved far in the legislative process. Everytown activists argue that permitless carry blocks judges from denying permits to people who have a red flag in their history, like domestic violence or serious mental illness.

The Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America rally at the state Capitol in Atlanta Wednesday. Credit: Kelly Jordan

The Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America rally at the state Capitol in Atlanta Wednesday. Credit: Kelly Jordan

Everytown also argues for banning convicted domestic abusers from getting guns, and for banning so-called “bump stocks,” a gun accessory that allows a semiautomatic firearm to fire more quickly than a human could fire it.

Trump has said he’s in favor of a bump stock ban.

State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, was among the lawmakers who came out to  the Atlanta rally. Over her career, she’s filed bills proposing banning assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and armor-piercing bullets. She’s also the author of the proposed bump stock ban.

“The world is changing when Donald Trump and Mary Margaret Oliver agree on bump stocks,” she said. “We’re making progress, even in Georgia.”

Oliver said she does think some bills to tighten gun laws could pass. Specifically, she mentioned House Bill 541, which would ban convicted domestic abusers from having a gun. And HB 657, that takes it from a misdemeanor to a felony to act as a “straw man” gun buyer, someone who knowingly buys a gun for a convicted felon.

“We need this kind of pressure and we also need a specific focus on the bills that should pass, like protecting domestic violence victims and the straw man,” she said. “Those are the kinds of things in Georgia we can accomplish and it will build on this,” she said, pointing at the crowd.

House Bill 541 was introduced last year and has not yet gotten a state House floor vote. House Bill 657 has been approved by the House and is now in the state Senate.

Maggie Lee is a freelance reporter who's been covering Georgia and metro Atlanta government and politics since 2008.

3 replies
  1. George Wilson says:

    Some corporations step up to counter NRA’s extremism
    Several major companies, Enterprise Holdings, First National Bank of Omaha, Symantec and Hertz, Delta and United Airlines have ended co-branding partnerships with the National Rifle Association (NRA) as the BoycottNRA social media movement picks up steam.

    Like many other organizations, the NRA has deals with companies designed to make membership more appealing. The NRA “member benefits” page offers savings on a credit card, hearing aids, car rentals, travel, car purchases and prescription drugs. FedEx, for example, gives NRA Business Alliance members up to a 26 percent discount on shipping expenses.
    Reshma Kapadia writes in the “Streetwise” column of Barrons: “For many Florida teachers, it’s an indignity on top of a tragedy. Inside their retirement plans, they hold stock in the companies that make the AR-15 rifle. The $163 billion Florida Retirement Pension Plan had a $4 million stake in gun manufacturers as of December 31. Nearly half of that comes from a low-cost index fund that tracks the broad-based Russell 3000.”
    She adds: “Indexing giants Vanguard and BlackRock are the largest investors in the three major publicly traded gun makers. BlackRock owns 11 percent of American Outdoor Brands, formerly Smith and Wesson. Together, BlackRock and Vanguard own 26 percent of Sturm Ruger, which makes semi-automatic rifles including the AR-15. And they’re the No. 2 and No. 3 owners, respectively, of Vista Outdoor.”
    Finally, we have now entered a time that the NRA has become a radical far-right fringe organization. Recently, it has taking on positions other than guns. Actually, in fact, most NRA members support rational and reasonable measures to reduce gun violence, namely background checks, keeping guns from the mentally ill and terrorists.
    It is the NRA and the gun manufacturers with their scare tactics that prevent sane laws that reduce killings. So, if our legislators are afraid of the NRA; corporations and businesses should continue to take up this task of preventing organizations like the NRA from promoting more violence.Report

    Reply
  2. Raymond says:

    The NRA is a civil rights organization. That is how every single due paying member see it. Their members see real value in having someone constantly stand up for their 2nd Amendment rights because we constantly see other rights chipped away by constant legislation and bureaucrats. The side benifits of membership are trivial.Report

    Reply

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