Democratic state lawmakers call for gun safety changes

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Days after the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, some democratic Georgia lawmakers called for changes to the state's gun laws. 

"We typically always say, 'we vote the way our constituents want us to vote.'  Well, 90% of Americans want background checks.  In fact, as a little league coach I had to get a background check," said State Rep. Derrick Jackson, D-Tyrone.  "To be a big brother, big sister mentor, I had to get a background check."

The small group of legislators held a news conference to express their support for some of the ideas being floated nationally, including stronger background checks for gun purchases and an assault weapons ban. 

They also said they wanted to revive House Bill 970, a proposal from the 2018 legislative session that would have banned long guns from public assemblies of two or more people.

"This is not about the Second Amendment," said Rep. Jackson.  "This is about pro-public safety."

Under current Georgia law, anyone who buys a firearm from a licensed dealer must undergo a National Instant Criminal Background Check, or NICS.  Private gun sales, where one person buys a gun from another, are exempt.  Though it is against the law for anyone to sell a gun to a convicted felon.

Sellers are not required to perform a background check if the buyer has a valid Georgia Weapons Carry License.  To get a carry permit, one must fill out an application at their local probate court, get fingerprinted and undergo both a criminal history and background check.  It takes about 30 days for law enforcement to approve a license and they are valid for five years.  The cost varies from county to county, but according to the state, the average is $75. 

Democrats at Thursday's press conference said their primary purpose was to engage to community and encourage them to contact their state lawmakers about the gun debate.  They said they had not yet reached out to republican legislators to talk about compromise.

"The Speaker has not been contacted by any member of the Democratic Caucus on this issue in recent weeks," said Kaleb McMichen, spokesman for House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge.  "That said, Speaker Ralston is proud that, under his leadership, the House has led on mental health reform and hates crimes legislation. The Speaker hopes to continue a productive, bipartisan conversation rather than resorting to partisan theatrics."