An election year anomaly has resulted in both of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats being up for election in November this year, and the gun control group Brady has announced it’s backing Rev. Raphael Warnock, the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta in the U.S. Senate race to take on Sen. Kelly Loeffler.
Loeffler, who was appointed to the seat by Gov. Brian Kemp, is now facing a special election to fill the remainder of the current term. Sen. David Perdue, meanwhile, is running for a full six year term. Jon Ossoff, who became a darling of Democrats in 2017 when he challenged Republicans for an open seat in Georgia’s conservative 6th congressional district, won the Democratic primary earlier this year and will face Perdue on the ballot.
Loeffler, meanwhile, will take part in a special general election that had no primary at all. Instead, every candidate will appear on the ballot, regardless of party. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the top two finishers will face off in a runoff election on January 5th, 2021. Currently, there are six Republicans and eight Democrats running, which makes the odds of Loeffler winning 50% of the vote outright a pretty daunting task. Her biggest challenger on the right is Rep. Doug Collins, and there’s a fairly good chance that the runoff will be between two Republicans.
If a Democrat candidate is able to capture one of the top two spots, however, Warnock may very well be the one. There’s been little polling in the race, but a survey of likely voters from back in February had Warnock in fourth place, behind Collins, Loeffler, and Matt Lieberman (son of former U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut). The world has turned upside down since February, however, and Warnock, who’s the pastor at the church where Martin Luther King once served in the same role, has much stronger social justice bona fides than Lieberman, who’s running a middle-of-the-road campaign that promises to “change a broken Washington and get things done” for Georgians.
It’s no big stretch for Brady to endorse Warnock. He’s been a reliable voice for gun control for years. Here is back in 2014 taking issue with a bill that would allow pastors like himself to choose whether or not to allow lawful concealed carry in their church.
Speaking at Central Presbyterian Church across the street from the state Capitol, The Rev. Raphael Warnock of Ebenezer Baptist Church said faith groups are united in their opposition to a bill that would expand carry areas to bars, churches and government buildings without security. He spoke with other religious leaders as part of the coalition Faith Voices Against Violence.
“You’ve got Baptists, and Presbyterians, and Episcopalians, and Catholics, and Jews and we all agree. That’s a miracle,” Warnock said.
Despite objections from Warnock and others, a slightly different version of the bill was included in the Safe Carry Protection Act signed by then-Gov. Nathan Deal later that year.
The Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014, which goes into effect July 1, allows Georgia residents with concealed carry permits to bring guns into churches that give express permission, while lowering the fine for bringing a gun into a place of worship to $100. It permits guns in bars, school zones, government buildings and certain areas inside airports. It says the state no longer has to fingerprint law-abiding gun owners to renew their licenses, and that dealers won’t be required to keep sales records for state purposes (federal government record-keeping laws still apply). The NRA has called it “the most comprehensive pro-gun bill in state history.” Opponents have derided it as the “guns everywhere” bill.
Since the law went into effect back in 2014, by the way, violent crime has gone down across the state, while the homicide rate has remained steady. There’s no evidence that the “gun everywhere” bill resulted in more crime anywhere, but Warnock remains steadfastly opposed to any expansion of the Second Amendment and fully supportive of virtually any gun control law you can dream up.
At the same time, however, Warnock recently spoke to the Atlanta Journal Constitution about the need to “reimagine” policing, though he stopped short of saying he supports the “Defund Police” movement.
Warnock, the pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, said he opposes defunding the police but supports a method to “responsibly fund law enforcement.”
“We need to reimagine policing and reimagine the relationships between law enforcement and communities,” said Warnock. “We certainly need to demilitarize the police so we can rebuild the trust between the police and the community.”
As I’ve said before, gun control laws create gun crimes. If Warnock wants to reimagine policing, he needs to reimagine his support for the anti-gun agenda, which relies on armed agents of the State for enforcement. Every nonsensical, ticky-tack, Michael Bloomberg-approved gun law backed by Brady is another excuse for police to make an arrest; another chance to give someone a charge for a non-violent crime that could result in prison but will most likely result in a slap on the wrist, a plea deal, and a sense that the system doesn’t really care if they break the law.
If Rev. Warnock honestly believes that policing is part of the problem, then he must also accept that means that gun control laws are part of the problem too. Are you telling me that a man of God can’t come up with any solution to the problem of violent crime than to try to ban and arrest our way to safety? Is there not a moral and spiritual component to this violence that can’t be touched by a piece of anti-gun legislation?
More pragmatically, how does Warnock imagine enforcement of his favored gun control laws in a world where de-policing is the de facto policy? That’s not a “gotcha” question. If he’s running on both gun control and police reform, how does he imagine the intersecting of those two policy goals is going to play out? It may be he hasn’t really thought about it all that much. In fact, I suspect most Democrats are trying very hard to avoid acknowledgment of the uncomfortable truth that police reform and gun control are at odds with each other.