Fact Sheet

Fact Sheet: Dangerous Gun Laws in Georgia

Brian Kemp made dangerous gun laws a key part of his campaign for governor in 2018—and since taking office, he has doubled down on these policies: Under Kemp’s watch, the number of homicides in Georgia has surged a stunning 23 percent.

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A man wearing a shirt endorsing
A man wearing a shirt endorsing "constitutional carry" attends a campaign event for Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) on September 27, 2022, in Alpharetta, Georgia. (Getty/Elijah Nouvelage)

This fact sheet contains a correction.

Before Gov. Brian Kemp (R) took office, gun crime laws in Georgia were already incredibly weak. Republicans in the state had been gutting gun safety protections since gaining full control of state government in 2005. There were no waiting periods for gun purchasers, no universal background checks, and no permit-to-purchase requirements; the state even allowed gun dealers to receive special immunity protections if they broke the law. Then, in 2006, Georgia Republicans passed a reckless “stand your ground” law, encouraging residents to respond with “deadly force” to perceived threats. They also allowed individuals with a weapons carry license to carry guns nearly everywhere in the state, including to private businesses, churches, and even bars. And they expanded access to guns on college campuses, despite a surge in campus shootings.

Even so, when Gov. Kemp took office in 2019, he managed to make Georgia’s gun laws even more dangerous. Gov. Kemp courted gun manufacturers and worked successfully to bring more gunmakers into the state. He signed a radical permitless carry bill—over the objections of law enforcement leaders across the state—making it legal for people to carry a concealed firearm in public without a background check. He signed a reciprocity bill that allows out-of-state residents to carry guns in Georgia if they have a concealed carry permit from another state, regardless of how weak that state’s permitting law is. And following the mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Gov. Kemp refused calls by Democrats to convene a special legislative session in Georgia to close loopholes in the state’s gun laws and keep students safe.

Kemp made weak gun laws a key part of his 2018 campaign for governor. He has followed through on his promises: Gun crime has surged, murder rates have increased, and thousands of illegal guns have been trafficked out of Georgia.

The result of Georgia Republicans’ extreme policies has been a stunning surge in gun crime. Under Gov. Kemp’s watch, the number of homicides in Georgia—the vast majority of which are committed with guns—has steadily increased. And in the wake of Gov. Kemp’s policy changes, Black people specifically, have been at higher risk of victimization: From 2010 to 2019, the rate of firearm homicide rose 50 percent for Black individuals.

But it’s not just Georgians who are paying for these policies with their lives. According to U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) data, Georgia has outsourced more guns used in crimes than any other state in the country. Meanwhile, campaign funds from the gun lobby continue to flow to Republican candidates in Georgia. Most recently, Gov. Kemp received a more than $50,000 campaign donation from Daniel Defense, the gun manufacturer that produced the firearm used in the Uvalde mass shooting—money he has refused to return.

Gun violence in Georgia: By the numbers

23%

Increase in homicides in Georgia from 2018 to 2021

18%

Increase in family violence incidents involving a gun in Georgia from 2018 to 2021

33%

Increase in illegal guns recovered on Georgia crime scenes from 2018 to 2021

57%

Increase in crime guns flowing from Georgia into other states from 2018 to 2021

Gov. Kemp claims he wants to “protect Georgia families from violence,” but his gun policies have proven deadly

  • On Gov. Kemp’s watch, homicides in Georgia have increased by 23 percent, family violence incidents involving a gun have increased by 18 percent, and illegal guns recovered on Georgia crime scenes have increased by 33 percent.*
  • In spite of growing police budgets in major cities such as Atlanta and Savannah, the number of homicides in Georgia has risen substantially—fueled by the state’s lax gun laws. In 2021, 81 percent of guns recovered and traced on crime scenes throughout Georgia came from within the state.
  • Homicides have skyrocketed in cities and rural communities across Georgia. In Atlanta, homicides jumped from 88 in 2018 to 158 in 2021. In April 2022, Savannah experienced an 8 percent increase in the number of aggravated assaults and homicides involving a firearm compared with the same time period in 2021. Columbus, likewise, saw a 30 percent increase in the number of homicides from 2019 to 2021. And in Laurens County, there were three times as many homicides in 2020 as in 2019.
  • Georgia’s murder rate is now 10th highest in the country. On average, more than 80 percent of homicides in Georgia involve a gun.

Despite Georgia’s alarming rate of gun violence, Gov. Kemp has made it even easier for dangerous people to access firearms and carry concealed weapons

  • In April 2022, Gov. Kemp signed into law a permitless carry bill that allows residents to carry handguns in public without a license:
    • The policy has been shown to increase violent crime rates by 13 to 15 percent. Particularly permissive concealed carry laws are also associated with 8.6 percent higher gun homicide rates.**
    • Not only did this legislation lead to a dangerous increase in gun-related homicides, but it also is wildly unpopular among constituents: A recent poll shows nearly 70 percent of Georgia voters do not believe people should be allowed to carry concealed weapons without a license.
    • Law enforcement officials in Macon-Bibb County, Mercer University, Muscogee County, and Savannah spoke out about the permitless carry legislation, arguing that the new policy would make their jobs more difficult.
  • In April 2022, Georgia enacted reciprocity legislation that enables individuals with out-of-state concealed carry permits to carry concealed in Georgia no matter what the permitting standards are in another state.
  • Although gun sales have begun to level off after a massive surge in spring 2020, handgun sales in Georgia remain well above pre-pandemic levels. In March 2019, there were 32,764 guns sold in Georgia; in March 2022, that number stood at 42,713.
  • Following the mass school shooting in Uvalde, Gov. Kemp refused calls by Democrats to convene a special legislative session in Georgia to fix the state’s dangerous gun laws and keep students safe.

Georgia Republicans’ extreme gun policies have made the state a more dangerous place to live while also fueling violent crime outside the state

  • The growing number of guns produced and sold in Georgia, in conjunction with the state’s weak gun laws, has created optimal conditions for criminals to engage in gun trafficking. Georgia is a key piece of the “Iron Pipeline,” through which guns are illegally trafficked from Southern states up the East Coast to major cities such as New York. In 2021 alone, 7,707 guns used in out-of-state crimes were traced back to the Peach State.
  • For the past four years, Georgia has contributed more crime guns to other states than any other state in the country. From 2018 to 2021, the number of crime guns flowing from Georgia into other states rose 57 percent.
  • The federal government has been working to break up large interstate gun trafficking rings. Statements offered by defendants demonstrate how firearms are easily obtained in Georgia and moved into states with stricter gun laws. As one defendant stated: “I never knew how open guns was in Georgia. The whole process threw me off. You walk in, and then there’s a police officer sitting at the front. And they don’t check for, you know, ID or carry licenses or if you’re a felon or nothing.”

Conclusion

Brian Kemp made weak gun laws a key part of his 2018 campaign for governor. He has followed through on his promises: Gun crime has surged, murder rates have increased, and thousands of illegal guns have been trafficked out of Georgia.

Now, Gov. Kemp is trying to run away from his own policies. After signing the permitless carry bill in April 2022—just ahead of the Republican primary—Kemp has gone quiet on gun issues. His campaign website does not mention firearms, the Second Amendment, or his legislative record on guns.

Let’s be clear: Kemp may talk about building “A Safer, Stronger Georgia.” But his deadly record speaks for itself.

*Authors’ note: Homicides in Georgia increased from 603 in 2018 to 745 in 2021, family violence incidents involving a gun in Georgia increased from 928 in 2018 to 1,096 in 2021, and illegal guns recovered on Georgia crime scenes increased from 13,297 in 2018 to 17,776 in 2021.

**Correction, October 6, 2022: This fact sheet has been updated to clarify that particularly permissive concealed carry laws are associated with the 8.6 percent increase in gun homicide rates.

The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.

Author

the Center for American Progress Action Fund

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