Atlanta, GA (June 24, 2020) - The Georgia Coalition for Safe Communities (GCSC) applauds state legislators for approving HB 426, a bipartisan hate crimes law that holds individuals and groups accountable for crimes motivated by bigotry and hatred.
“Laws deter violence and with the passage of HB 426 people now will know that their hate crimes will not be tolerated in Georgia,” said GCSC Co-Founder Dorothy LeoneGlasser, executive director of ARxC, a non-profit patient advocacy coalition. “We urge Gov. Brian Kemp to sign this critically important legislation into law without delay.”
GCSC, founded by ARxC, Compassionate Atlanta and Faith in Public Life GA-OUTCRY, fought for passage of HB 426 earlier this year before the 2020 General Assembly session was suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill passed the House in 2019 and stalled in the Senate. Georgia was one of four states without a hate crimes law.
Following the May 7 arrests of two white men in the shotgun death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old African American, in Brunswick, GA, GCSC joined the chorus of community and business leaders calling on the Senate to approve the House bill when the session resumed June 15. To underscore the urgency, hundreds of people of all faiths across Georgia signed a Faith in Public Life petition urging adoption of HB 426.
“GCSC congratulates Republicans and Democrats for recognizing the significance of this legislation for all Georgians,” Leone-Glasser said. “Our communities will never be safe if people fear they can be targeted because of who they are and what they stand for. We particularly want to commend the bill’s sponsors Reps. Chuck Efstration and Calvin Smyre as well as House Speaker David Ralston, Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan, and Senators Elena Parent, Harold V. Jones II, Jesse Stone and Bill Cowsert. We also acknowledge the untiring efforts of the Georgia Democratic Leadership and Caucus, along with the NAACP GA.”
Leone-Glasser also observed, “The adoption of HB426 was supported by all the citizen advocates who called, emailed and posted on social media the need to pass this historic legislation. Your voices were heard!”
Additional news on Georgia's battle for a hate crimes law:
Georgia Faith Leaders Call on the Immediate Passage of Hate Crimes Bill - Faith in Public Life June 4, 2020 presser
Listen to NPR's May 9, 2020 2 minute coverage of this issue:
Watch June 3, 2020 11Alive coverage of the issue and the need for hate crimes legislation in Georgia:
In December of 2019, ARxC Executive Director, Dorothy Leone-Glasser, joined Georgia Representative Derrick Jackson (District 64) for a Law & Society interview and discussion on gun-related violence in Georgia and solutions that the GCSC are pursing in collaboration with Georgia's legislative body.
Georgia Coalition for Safe Communities (GCSC)
A coalition advocating for common sense policies that prevent violence.
Georgia has a gun violence crisis. We can no longer ignore the fact that Georgia has some of the highest levels of gun-related violence in the country. The public health burden is rising from gun violence: deaths, injuries, anxiety and other associated harms pose substantial risks to the health of the public and take a devastating toll on our communities.
Following passage in 2017 of legislation in Georgia that allows carrying concealed weapons on college campuses, a group of us came together to build a coalition of grass roots advocates strong enough to challenge the gun lobby’s hold on our state. Our current laws are inadequate to protect Georgians and we are committed to advocating for common sense gun violence prevention policies and expand research that gives attention to gun violence as a public health crisis.
The Georgia Coalition for Safe Communities (GCSC) is urging Georgia lawmakers to implement a non-partisan Study Committee to provide evidence based data on gun violence in our Georgia communities. By applying the same public health research approach used to study the causes and effect of diseases such as cancer and HIV, and other forms of violence such as child abuse and sexual violence, we can develop and apply strategies to help reduce gun violence in our state. The research will include the behavioral response to gun violence in an effort to break its cycle. The committee will examine a wide range of gun violence data, including injuries, suicides, household homicides, and risks to children. Along with the psychological, physical and social impact of gun incidents, the Georgia Study Committee will report the economic impact of gun related violence on the financial health of our communities and state. See the GCSC One-Pager (updated January 7, 2020) for more details.
We are confident that most Georgians favor making our communities safer. In two April 2018 polls by the University of Georgia, 90% of likely Democratic primary voters and 45% of likely Republican primary voters favored stricter laws governing the sale of firearms in Georgia. These findings mirrored a national Gallup poll conducted in March 2018, following the Parkland Florida High School shooting the previous month.
We recognize that advocating for gun violence prevention faces challenges in Georgia, however the November 2018 elections demonstrated our state is at a tipping point politically. Only 54,700 votes out of nearly 4 million separated the Republican gubernatorial winner from the Democratic candidate, who advocated repealing the “campus carry law.” Democrats also managed to flip more than a dozen seats in the majority Republican Georgia General Assembly, which aggressively has pushed the gun lobby’s agenda, including the campus carry law despite opposition from university administrators. In addition, the Democratic candidate in the 6th US Congressional district, a strong gun control advocate, won that long-held Republican seat (see picture below of Dorothy Leone-Glasser of ARxC with Congresswoman Lucy McBath and the Interfaith Gun Violence Prevention Group). GCSC is non-partisan. We believe that Democrats, Republicans and Independents can all agree gun violence is a public health and safety issue. Our coalition currently includes over 200 local partner organizations and 2,000 faith leaders. Together we have more than 145,000 followers on social media; e-mail lists with more than 10,000 addresses. This is just the beginning. We will expand to include not only grass roots organizations, but also other key stakeholders committed to building safer communities.
For example, Georgia is a national headquarters hub for Fortune 500 companies with 21 calling our state home. They include Home Depot, Delta Air Lines, Coca-Cola, Southern Company, Genuine Parts Company, Mohawk Industries, Tyler Perry Film Studio and Mercedes-Benz USA. We know these employers want safe and healthy communities for their employees.
Our state also has become one of the world’s top locations for film and television production. In fiscal year 2017, the industry had an economic impact of $9.5 billion in Georgia. All of these employers have a stake in making sure that our state’s communities are safe.
In building our coalition and advocating for public policies, GCSC’s approach is that Gun Violence is a public health crisis in Georgia. We believe it is preventable and should be subject to the same scientific approach public health experts use in studying other forms of violence, such as suicide. In the US, there are more than 33,000 gun related deaths per year and two-thirds are suicides. According to new data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, during 2015-16, 27,394 people were killed by someone with a gun in the United States, and 44,955 used a gun to kill themselves, after years of decline in gun deaths.
The founding members of GCSC share a committed willingness to have the difficult conversations surrounding gun violence. Since the 1990’s there has been a void in funding gun violence research. We support expanding federal, state and private funding for gun violence research and prevention measures to understand the overall patterns of gun violence, how our communities are affected by it and who is the most at risk.
Broadening research to understand the facts about Georgia’s gun violence is necessary in shaping policies to advance gun violence prevention. There are many state and local lawmakers in Georgia who are willing to address this crisis as a public health priority.
GCSC’s understanding of the state’s shifting political climate will be critical to our coalition’s success. We will focus the strength of its coalition partners to engage lawmakers and build on existing national gun violence prevention measures, such as Extreme Risk Laws, which enact procedures for preventing suicides, mass shootings and other homicides, and intimate partner shootings.
GCSC is comprised of passionate advocates from organizations across our state. We seek to inform, educate, and mobilize communities and individuals on actions and practices that promote common sense policies to prevent violence. We are creating advocacy and collaboration strategies that will include grass roots organizations; health care and patient groups; national and local businesses; municipal and county governments; law enforcement; and professional associations to help improve the safety of our society and enhance the quality of life for all Georgians, without the threat of violence.
GCSC Partners: Advocates for Responsible Care (ARxC), OUTCRY: Interfaith Voices Agains Gun Violence, and Compassionate Atlanta
GCSC Consulting Specialists:
- Download the GCSC One-Pager (updated January 7, 2020) for a full description of the GCSC and our collective efforts to urge lawmakers in Georgia to form a legislative Study Committee to assess the public health crisis of gun violence in Georgia.
- Learn more about GCSC's proposal to establish Georgia Legislative Study Committee on the Public Health Impact of Gun Violence
- Read the GCSC's statements in response to the unacceptable shootings we've seen in Georgia and across the U.S.
 Georgia Gun Violence Fact Sheet; https://s3.amazonaws.com/interactives.americanprogress.org/maps/raphael/AmericaUnderFire/pdfs/GA-GunViolence-factsheet.pdf
Go to www.SafeGeorgia.org for a full description of the problem and a summary of what GCSC is doing to bring common sense policies to prevent violence in Georgia.
© GCSC 2019