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A Turbulent Week In Georgia Politics

A Turbulent Week In Georgia Politics

By Teresa Tomlinson

It is no secret that Lt. Governor Casey Cagle is the current frontrunner in the 2018 gubernatorial race. He has so far outraised all challengers, and his polling bests his opponents. Ask any Republican and they will tell you: The race is Cagle’s to lose. Apparently, Casey Cagle intends to test that proposition.

He has been labeled an ideologue in the past for his support of religious liberty bills that allow discrimination against gays and lesbians (precisely as segregation discriminated against people of color a few decades ago – on the basis of a perceived faith dictate), causing concern among those who desire a more mainstream approach to state governance. This past week, Cagle heightened the jitters among would be supporters in Georgia’s business community and among Moderates and Independents when he retaliated against Delta Air Lines, one of Georgia’s largest employers, by pulling a $50 million jet fuel tax exemption from Governor Nathan Deal’s tax bill. The legislative punishment was in response to Delta canceling an NRA discount on airline tickets. This jet fuel exemption had been a Republican political weapon against Delta in 2015 when it spoke out against the then pending religious liberty bill and in support of Obama administration immigration policies. See AJC Political Insider, March 4, 2015. The exemption that had existed for several years was repealed to show Delta who’s boss – not a very appealing business environment for Amazon to want to jump into.

Adding insult to injury, Republican Congressman Drew Ferguson posted on Twitter a photo of himself boarding a Southwest Airline flight to Washington D.C., and suggesting he would be boycotting Delta due to its discontinuance of the NRA discount. Ferguson represents the area which is home to many of Delta’s 33,000 employees in Peachtree City, Fayetteville and Newnan.

Georgia is being whipsawed by the ideological inconsistency of Republican leaders. The seismic shift in the Republican brand is leaving many scratching their heads. We now know that conservative legislators choose gun extremism over jobs and economic development, catering to the NRA over some 83,000 Delta and the Amazon HQ2 jobs. We now know that conservative legislators choose gun extremism over the free market by catering to the NRA while attempting to direct a business’ private market interest and its First Amendment commercial and political free speech.

And, we have known for some time that conservative legislators choose gun extremism over our law enforcement agencies, which beg them not to enact reckless gun laws that make their jobs harder and put lives at risk. Just three weeks ago in Columbus, Georgia, we had a man walk into our Public Safety building that houses our Police Department with an AR-15 strapped to his back. Under Georgia law, our police officers were prohibited from asking this man for his permit or asking him to state his intentions. Law enforcement officers cannot approach someone carrying an assault weapon in a public place until that person begins to break the law. Officers must simply watch from afar as citizens and other officers pass by trying calmly to conduct their daily business. We require a citizen to show an ID to vote, but we cannot ask a man carrying an AR-15 to present his permit. Georgia law puts the gun carrier over public safety. (For other stunning examples of how legislators have put gun extremism over the pleas of our law enforcement agencies, see my recent Daily Beast editorial.)

This past week in Georgia, we also saw the deconstruction of two gun extremism fallacies. We had a 2012 Teacher of the Year fire a gun in a Dalton, Georgia high school classroom in a moment of personal distress. We do not need more guns in schools. Then, we saw two “law abiding gun owners,” Georgia Republican Congressman Tom Graves and the son of Republican Congressman Barry Loudermilk, have their guns stolen from their car. Those guns are now in the hands of criminals and will likely be used in a violent crime. So, Georgia’s “Guns Everywhere” law actually increases the incident of illegal gun possession by encouraging guns to be carried in cars where they are more easily stolen.

I have never heard anyone of any political affiliation suggest that there should be no guns, or that guns should be taken away from “law abiding” gun owners, or that guns should be taken away from hunters. And, yet, these pale, weak assertions are made every time we try to have a conversation about safe gun ownership and laws that protect people. To be blunt, if we can’t reconcile our desire to keep our loved ones safe with someone else’s desire to kill a deer, we aren’t trying hard enough.

We have bought a false premise that guns are required to be everywhere, and it is that false premise that facilitates a surreal discussion of how we can attempt to live in such a society. We need to arm teachers; we need to build schools and public buildings like prisons; we need civilians to engage in shootouts with suspects in public places; or,… we could repeal legislation that puts the public and the police in jeopardy, and enact laws that ensure responsible gun ownership and demonstrate that Georgia wants to grab its bright future.

It’s really not that hard, people, put Georgia first. And, take these anti-business, anti-free market, anti-free speech, anti-public safety policies and stick them somewhere else.

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