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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Fort to propose bill banning assault weapons, Second Amendment advocates promise to oppose measure

State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta
Last week's mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school have caused some congressmen to consider legislation that coud help prevent another tragedy. There's been talk of revisiting gun control, either by reinstating the federal ban on assault weapons or regulating the high-capacity magazines. In addition, some lawmakers say mental health issues deserve more attention. But we've heard little on the state level. That is, until today.

One of the state's most liberal lawmakers announced this afternoon that he plans to introduce legislation in the coming weeks that would ban assault weapons in Georgia. State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, said in a press statement:

"As a father, I have watched the events in Newtown unfold with pure horror... The time has come for reform so that these kinds of tragedies throughout the country are eradicated. How many more innocent children must be killed before we act? I am calling on my colleagues in the Georgia General Assembly to join me in passing legislation that will help to end these senseless acts of violence once and for all." [...]

"My heart is broken for the families affected by this unfathomable act of terror," said Sen. Fort. "We must honor the memory of those we have lost with swift action by both chambers in the state legislature. It is my sincere hope that we, as legislators, can put our differences aside and act promptly to ensure the protection of all citizens who call this great state home."

Jerry Henry, the executive director of Georgia Carry, the state's most vocal Second Amendment advocate, says the group opposes any legislation that aims to tighten gun laws, be it weapon bans or limiting the number of cartridges a magazine can hold.

"We're against all of it," Henry tells CL. "We still believe that the Second Amendment still means what it says. That'd be another infringement of our rights. "

He says no members have told him that last week's shooting caused them to rethink their positions on gun ownership. (Here's Georgia Carry's full statement on the mass shooting in Connecticut.) Policymakers should focus on mental health issues, Henry says, not gun control.

"The weapon didn't have anything to do with the killings," Henry says. "That was in the mind of the guy who did it. The guy had mental health problems. That's what should be [addressed].... There's no right you can take from a law-abiding citizen that will slow anything down."

What chances might Fort's legislation have of actually passing? Considering it's a Democrat's bill that involves banning a particular type of firearm - and it's being introduced in a Republican-controlled Legislature in one of the reddest states in the country - we'd say that they're slim. But could GOP lawmakers break ranks and actually support some form of gun control? We'll see.

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