Jun 29, 2023 - Politics

McBath: "Political dynamics have to change" in Georgia for gun control to pass

McBath at a press conference earlier this month outside the U.S. Capitol on discharge petitions to bring "common-sense gun safety legislation," to the floor. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.) is a leading advocate for gun control policy in Congress.

  • But as it stands in Georgia, she told Axios in an interview, the "political dynamics have to change in the state legislature" before any meaningful policy can pass at the state level.

Driving the news: McBath appeared alongside gun control advocates and experts at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado this week, with the message that it's "not just laws" that are needed to change the country's gun violence epidemic.

  • "You have to look at this cultural crisis really holistically, organically," she said, "just like we've changed any other culture."
  • She compared it to past societal movements away from cigarettes or toward support for same sex marriage.

"People want things to happen overnight. It doesn't happen that way when you're dealing with a cultural shift and change," she said.

Of note: McBath, whose name has been floated as a possible Democratic candidate for governor in 2026, skirted a question from Axios about her future political ambitions, instead saying she is concentrating on the needs of her newly drawn congressional district.

  • But she did not rule out the possibility.

Flashback: The Republican-dominated Georgia General Assembly has recently only passed bills to expand gun access — including a "permit-less carry" law that went into effect last year.

  • That's even though a majority of Georgians polled by the AJC opposed the measure.
  • Meanwhile, recent proposals by Democrats on topics including safe storage and waiting periods have gone nowhere.

Zoom in: McBath could not name a gun violence prevention-related bill she thought might have political legs of passing in the state Capitol now. Though she has long advocated for state-level red flag laws and background checks.

  • As it stands, she said, the "extremists" pushing a "false narrative that you're not safe anywhere" is "screaming the loudest" and preventing Republicans from stepping out to support many gun violence prevention efforts for fear of becoming "pariahs" in their own party.
  • If political dynamics change, she told Axios, "then it's just common sense and reason. Georgians are just as concerned about gun violence prevention as anybody else in the country."

Catch up quick: Last year's bipartisan federal gun control package, which McBath worked on, included $750 million in incentives for states to implement red flag laws. But Georgia lawmakers have not taken up that offer.

Yes, but: It also allocated funding to states to administer mental health and school safety programs.

  • Gov. Brian Kemp's administration opted to direct Georgia's nearly $7.5 million share to the state's Criminal Justice Coordinating Council to distribute for crisis intervention programming statewide.
  • Kemp also this year allocated nearly $84 million in state funds for public safety and community violence intervention grants and nearly $70 million for school safety grants in 2019.
  • "That's a start," McBath said of the federal funds. "He's using it for whatever he deems he wants to use it for. Of course, something is better than nothing."
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