The future of gun policy is a big issue for some on either side of Georgia’s gubernatorial race, but what changes in gun laws are really likely after the election?
Republican candidate Brian Kemp started off campaigning with an ad that caught national attention appearing to point a shotgun at a teenager.
But since the primaries, Kemp has been less vocal about guns. Usually, what he says comes down to the following:
“I hunt, I shoot, I carry. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said that on the campaign trail,” Kemp said at this year’s convention for the gun advocacy group Georgia Carry.
One of Kemp’s major lines of attack against Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams has been her support for a 2016 bill that would have banned “certain assault weapons.”
“But that was a bill that was never going to be heard anyway,” said Georgia Carry Executive Director Jerry Henry.
Henry keeps a close watch over what the group believes are real threats to gun rights. He said the attempted assault weapons ban was never that.
And actually, Henry is not that concerned about Abrams and guns overall, because regardless of how the governor’s race goes, republicans control Georgia’s state legislature.
“If the makeup of the house and senate stay the way it is, then I don’t think we have to worry about her passing any gun laws,” Henry said.
On the other hand, he says, Abrams isn’t likely to sign any of their sponsored bills either.
From a gun rights perspective, Georgia’s had some big wins over the last decade. That includes a package of changes so expansive it was dubbed “Guns Everywhere,” and the ability for students to carry guns on to college campuses.
So much of what remains on the agenda of gun rights groups like Georgia Carry is about expanding or cleaning up laws already on the books.
“This is not a hill to die on for gun rights,” Henry said. “It is a hill for the future of Georgia. We do not need Georgia to become another California.”
Culture, and a slate of other pressing political issues like health care, are at the core of what’s at stake for conservative gun owners like Henry.
But election watchers have noted that Abrams is part of a wave of Georgia’s democratic candidates making a fresh break from gun advocacy groups and openly campaigning on gun control measures.
Unlike Kemp, whose campaign website makes almost no mention of guns or firearms policy, Abrams has a long list of proposals that includes strengthening background checks and support for domestic violence survivors.
Her outspokenness has made her a daily social media target of groups like Georgia Gun Owners, which calls itself the state’s “only No-Compromise” gun rights organization.
Georgia Democratic state Sen. Elena Parent has been trying for years to pass gun control laws. Canvassing with a group of gun safety activists recently, Parent felt hopeful about one tool Abrams would have as governor.
“She is in a position to veto any additional weakening of our gun laws that allow more dangerous weapons into more places at more times,” she said.
Asked about the chances of Abrams’ campaign promise to repeal campus carry, she said: “Um, you know, we’ll see.”
Parent said it’s not outside the realm of possibility — it just wouldn’t be easy.