Abrams says we can't "punish" our way to safety, but pledges to create new crimes out of the right to carry

AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File

It’s not like Stacey Abrams was ever going to be the pro-2A candidate in the Georgia governor’s race, but the Democrat is proposing some major restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms as part of her gubernatorial campaign.

According to Axios, which was the first to report on Abrams anti-gun agenda, the candidate says if elected, she’ll work to roll back or repeal several pro-gun measures that have been put in place in the state over the past few years, starting with the permitless carry law signed by Gov. Brian Kemp back in April.

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.”)

So Abrams says she won’t do anything to “infringe” on the right to carry, yet she plans on undoing most of the laws that protect Georgians’ right to carry a firearm in self-defense. Those two statements don’t seem too compatible to me, and I’m guessing that most Georgia voters aren’t going to buy her rhetoric either. Still, with Kemp enjoying a pretty steady lead of around five points over Abrams, she’s gotta do something to try to fire up her base, and with gun control the top issue for many Democrats at the moment, going after the right to carry may seem like a logical starting point. And unlike her counterpart in the Texas governor’s race, Abrams isn’t calling for a ban on AR-15s and other semi-automatic rifles in Georgia, telling Axios it’s not “tenable”.

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.

Does Abrams support convicted felons being able to legally purchase a firearm if their criminal records are cleared, or is the “clean slate” law not quite as clean as she’s touting? Something tells me it’s the latter, though a platform that prevents those without criminal records from lawfully carrying in public places while allowing convicted felons to legally purchase a gun does sound like something that Abrams would come up with and approve of.

Abrams’ incomprehensible positions extend to her justification for pushing for repeal of many of Georgia’s carry laws, which she claims were only approved by Republican legislators because they “tend to vote with their leadership more than they vote with their constituents”, while also telling Axios that “‘making gun laws to win elections is the wrong direction for the state.”

If constituents didn’t want these laws, then presumably they wouldn’t vote for the legislators who approve them, right? Abrams is arguing that lawmakers are ignoring the will of voters even though she tacitly acknowledges that these laws are popular with them. Of course, she also says we can’t “punish our way to safety” while hoping to impose new criminal penalties on the lawful carrying of firearms, which is also nonsensical.

Kemp very much has the inside track to be re-elected this fall, and all of Abrams’ bloviating about guns and gun control won’t change that. Still, I do hope that Kemp and Abrams end up on a debate state at some point between now and November, if only to see Abrams try to square her anti-gun statements with her soft-on-crime positions.