Following recent tragedies such as the Atlanta spa shootings and the Boulder shooting, gun control advocates are once again calling for new federal and state legislation on guns. The Atlanta spa shootings were a series of attacks on three spas in metro Atlanta that resulted in the deaths of eight people, including six Asian women. This attack was a callous reminder of rising anti-Asian sentiments in the United States and highlighted the easy accessibility of guns.
Here in Georgia, the lax gun laws directly contributed to the deadly attacks in the Atlanta spas because of a lack of a waiting period and no universal background checks. Georgia has some of the laxest gun laws in the nation. In 2017, Georgia had the 19th-highest gun death rate in the country. However, there are several ways Georgia could implement gun control measures in order to prevent any more tragedies in our state.
One example of gun legislation that Georgia could implement is a waiting period. A waiting period requires a certain number of days between the purchase of the gun and receiving the gun. This helps prevent erratic purchases like the one made on the day of the Atlanta spa shooting, as the guns used in the Atlanta spa shootings were bought on the same day as the attack. A 2017 report from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America found that states that implemented waiting periods reduced gun homicides by about 17%. Currently, ten states, including Florida, require waiting periods, and several other states are considering them.
Universal Background Checks
Another example of legislation that would reduce gun violence is to require universal background checks. Currently, in Georgia, federally licensed firearms dealers must conduct a background check under federal law, but private sellers (those who are not federally licensed) are not required to do a background check. This is an incredibly dangerous loophole, and it has been estimated that 22% of gun owners in the U.S. purchased their most recent gun without a background check. Individuals who are looking to commit crimes may intentionally purchase guns from private sellers in order to avoid a background check. Universal background checks would close this loophole, and over 90% of Americans support them. Additionally, waiting periods can help improve the background check system by giving them more time. The Atlanta spa shooter did receive a background check before the purchase of his gun, but according to the Giffords Law Center, the basic background check he passed would have only taken around 100 seconds to complete.
Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs), more commonly known as Red Flag laws, allow family members or law enforcement to ask a judge to temporarily confiscate and restrict the purchase of guns if the person has made serious threats or has exhibited warning signs of violence. Around 77% of Americans support red flag laws when they initiated by family members, and 70% support them when they are initiated by law enforcement. A mass shootings analysis from Everytown Research & Policy found that 54% of mass shooters from 2009 to 2018 exhibited warning signs of violence before the shooting. Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia have red-flag laws.
Georgia can greatly reduce the risk of gun violence by imposing stricter laws and requirements for purchasing a gun. If action is not taken, we will continue to see these unfortunate tragedies repeated again and again.