Jun 16, 2022 - Politics

Exclusive: Stacey Abrams' gun control plan

Illustration of a gun with a gavel for a trigger.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Stacey Abrams is rolling out her public safety and gun control plan ahead of the November election.

What's happening: The Democratic gubernatorial nominee is proposing to reverse some of the gun rights expansions Gov. Brian Kemp has promoted, as well as to resurrect a bipartisan criminal justice reform task force, according to a plan first reviewed by Axios.

Why it matters: Abrams makes the case that even as a Democratic governor with a Republican legislature in the Capitol, she could make progress on gun control and public safety.

  • Abrams told Axios in an interview she'd be able to provide new cover to some Republicans. "Rank and file [General Assembly] members tend to vote with their leadership more than they vote with their constituents. My goal is to make certain that I provide them leadership that lets them vote their constituencies."

Details: Abrams said she would push for "the obvious and the common-sense gun safety rules that do not infringe upon anyone's ability to carry."

  • She called the federal gun control compromise "an important step" but one that cannot fully address state-level challenges.
  • Abrams plans to institute a state red flag law and to close certain loopholes like background checks for gun show sales and domestic violence perpetrators.

Yes, but: She is also proposing a massive political lift: to roll back some of the biggest expansions of gun access that Georgia Republicans have passed recently.

  • That would include the permitless carry law Kemp signed this year, the 2017 "campus carry" law, which allows concealed carry on college campuses, and a 2014 measure that allowed Georgians to carry weapons in places including churches, schools and bars. (Opponents dubbed it "guns everywhere.")

Still, she thinks there's a path for their repeals.

  • "During the time that 'guns everywhere' passed in the state legislature, there were many Republicans who knew that it was the wrong thing to do, but it was an election year," Abrams said. "Making gun laws to win elections is the wrong direction for the state."
  • Republicans rejected previous permitless carry proposals because "they knew it was dangerous," she argued. "And I think in hindsight, there will be very much a willingness to reconsider and to strengthen our laws."

Of note: Abrams told Axios stronger gun control proposals, including a proposed assault weapons ban which she co-sponsored in 2016, aren't "tenable."

  • Abrams does maintain her previous position on eliminating cash bail for some lower-level offenses.

The other side: Kemp campaigned on his support for gun access. He has made combating gangs and sex trafficking priorities and created a multi-jurisdictional crime suppression unit last year.

  • Kemp responded to the Uvalde shooting by focusing on school safety measures, including school security grants in his 2019 budget and mental health support, including the new sweeping mental health reform law.

The big picture: Abrams is tying her public safety agenda to efforts to combat causes of violence and address recidivism, including reestablishing a criminal justice reform task force created by former Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, which Kemp ended. It received national recognition for cutting prison spending, diverting nonviolent offenders and addressing underlying issues in the criminal justice system like substance abuse and mental illness.

  • Abrams worked with Deal on the commission as Democratic House leader and said she intends to "pick up his legacy."
  • That bipartisanship led to support for the plan from a Republican criminal justice reform advocate, Kate Boccia with the National Incarceration Association. "I have very personal expectations about [Abrams'] plan to build on Gov. Deal's legacy and implement evidence-based solutions that make our communities safer without tearing families apart," Boccia said in a statement. "As a mother who lost her son to addiction — the same addiction that led to his incarceration — I've witnessed the machinery of a cruel system that fails to correct and keep us safe."
  • "You cannot simply punish your way to safety. You have to prepare for people who come back into the community," Abrams said.

Other proposals by Abrams include eliminating private probation, requiring civil penalties instead of criminal for some traffic and low-level drug offenses, and enacting a "clean slate" law to automatically clear criminal records after a certain amount of time.

  • Expanding Medicaid, she argues, would also increase behavioral health treatment options for uninsured people in the criminal justice system. The reform package that passed this spring, she said, doesn’t help the uninsured access non-crisis services.
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