Oct 18, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Gun policy takes center stage at Georgia governor's debate

Photo illustration of two images each of Governor Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams in front of the Georgia State Capitol.

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photos: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images and Laurie Dieffembacq/Belga Mag/AFP, Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency, and Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams sparred over their vastly different gun policies in their first debate rematch since 2018.

Why it matters: In a race in which polling averages show Kemp with a narrow lead, Abrams has sought to draw attention to Kemp's most conservative policies to win over moderate voters — including his loosening of gun regulation.

Driving the news: In Monday's debate, Abrams blamed Kemp's gun policies for the state's increase in violent crime.

  • Kemp, who just released a second-term public safety plan, which makes no mention of gun control, countered that his approach to violent crime has been to target bad actors like gangs: "We're going after the people that are doing these gun-related crimes," he said.

Between the lines: In an effort to target the Republican incumbent, Democrats have honed in on several of his policies that polls show a majority of Georgians do not support, including his six-week abortion ban and his gun policies.

Catch up quick: Last session, Kemp championed a law that eliminated the remaining permit regulation on concealed carry licenses in Georgia, allowing any “lawful weapons carrier” to carry a concealed handgun without a license anywhere concealed weapons are already allowed.

  • His second-term public safety plan proposes increasing penalties for gang recruitment of minors, implementing a database for gang research and prevention and reforming the system for granting no-cash bail.

The other side: Abrams' gun control policy platform entails repealing Kemp's recent permitless carry law and others, despite the fact she'd be likely to face a Republican legislature if elected.

What they're saying: "Street gangs are one part of the problem but we have a governor who has weakened gun laws in this state, flooded our streets with guns by letting dangerous people get access to these weapons," Abrams said.

  • Kemp said local permitting processes were holding up law-abiding citizens' ability to protect themselves and pointed to federal background checks as a stopgap.
  • "The largest-, fastest-growing segment of the population that's buying handguns and firearms is African Americans and females. You know why? Because the criminals are the only ones that do have the guns," he added.
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