Georgia Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Thwart Gun Violence One Week After Spa Shootings
One week after eight people were killed in a series of shootings in the Atlanta area, some Georgia lawmakers are pushing for stricter gun laws they believe could help prevent future attacks.
Democrats in the state introduced several pieces of legislation this week in direct response to the spa shootings, which claimed the lives of six Asian people amid a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes over the past year.
One of the measures aims to reform gun laws by requiring a five-day waiting period for gun purchases. The proposed legislation comes after it was revealed the Atlanta shooter reportedly purchased the gun used in the shooting earlier that day.
Another measure would establish a language translation system within the state's 911 communications center, hoping to allow victims of crimes to more easily get help if they don't speak English fluently.
Another proposed measure focuses on breakdowns in language and cultural barriers between victims and law enforcement, mandating that police officers be trained in language-accessible outreach.
Democratic state Sen. Sheikh Rahman —the first person of Asian descent to be elected to the Georgia Senate — told The Associated Press that even basic training in cultural outreach could help prevent some of the issues seen last week, such as reports that those who could not speak fluent English had trouble communicating with the responding officers.
Officers who carried a card with basic phrases in a range of languages could help "get the communication started," Rahman told the AP.
"Together, we mourn the senseless loss of life from those so cherished, so important and so loved by their families and friends in the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities," the state lawmakers sponsoring the bills wrote in a joint statement.
"We look to our history, and where this country has been, and we look forward to the change we need to see," the statement continued. "As AAPI legislators in the Georgia Senate and House, we are committed to not only drawing attention to the issues our communities face, but enacting meaningful change through legislation to address them."
Those sponsoring the bills have acknowledged the measures won't likely be considered until Georgia's next legislative session—with the current session set to end March 31—and even then, the proposed bills will face roadblocks with the state's Republican-controlled legislature.
Republican state Sen. Tyler Harper told the AP the proposed five-day waiting period measure would be "an unnecessary burden on law-abiding citizens being able to access and exercise their constitutional rights."
Democratic state Rep. Sam Park, who is the the primary sponsor for the statehouse's proposal to institute the five-day waiting period—told the AP that "without a doubt," gun control will be an issue during 2022 state elections, insisting lawmakers who don't vote in favor of the measures will have to answer to their constituents.
Park, 35, was among a group of Asian-American lawmakers who met with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris last week after the Georgia shooting.
"Hate and violence often hide in plain sight and are so often met with silence. That's been true throughout history," Biden, 78, said after the meeting. "But that has to change because our silence is complicity. We cannot be complicit. We have to speak out. We have to act."
Nationally, Democratic lawmakers are similarly pushing for stricter gun laws, such as measures banning the sale of assault weapons and those enacting background checks on gun purchases, though those measures face a similar Republican pushback in the U.S. Senate.
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