Atlanta spa shootings spark new push for gun controls

Prominent gun control groups angered by the ease with which the alleged Atlanta spa shooter was able to acquire his weapon are calling on politicians to convert their outrage at the massacre into a renewed push for legislative reforms.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Giffords Law Center, the advocacy group named for the former congresswoman and gun violence survivor Gabrielle Giffords, say the deaths of eight people, including six Asian American women, merely hastens the need for action in Washington DC and at state level.

The alleged murderer, Robert Aaron Long, purchased a 9mm handgun on Tuesday morning, just hours before Tuesday’s deadly rampage through three Atlanta area spas. According to law enforcement sources, and the gun shop owner, the transaction breached no federal gun laws or procedures.

“Hate exists everywhere in the world and America’s unfettered access to weapons makes that hate lethal. It is tragic that it took the highly public murder of eight people to prompt that conversation, again,” Brady’s president, Kris Brown, told the Guardian.

“The attack in Atlanta is a horrifying display of how racism, misogyny and white supremacy, when combined with firearms, are lethal. Whether it’s waiting periods for firearms purchases, expanded and strengthened background checks, or resources for mental health and community violence intervention, it is clear that this attack has catalyzed the discussion around what measures we need to take to stop gun violence.”

Brown pointed to this week’s reauthorizing by Congress of the Violence Against Women Act, despite substantial Republican opposition, as an example. It followed the passing in the House earlier this month of two gun reform bills seeking to expand background checks.

“Gun laws work in concert with one another to prevent gun violence [and] these laws and regulations are all complementary, they don’t operate in a vacuum,” Brown said. “It’s why we need a comprehensive approach.”

Peter Ambler, executive director of Giffords, echoed her views. “Congress must continue to act and pass meaningful gun safety legislation into law,” he said in a statement.

“The policies we know can make a difference have the broad, bipartisan support of Americans across the country. They can save lives in the neighborhoods, cities and communities that need action on safety the most.”

Numerous politicians at national and state level condemned the shooting, with several expressing concern that Long, 21, was able to walk into Big Woods Goods gun shop and range in Canton on the day of his killing spree, pass a rudimentary background check, and walk straight out with the weapon in his pocket.

He had previously spent six months at a rehabilitation facility in Roswell, Georgia, beginning in 2019, seeking treatment for sex addiction, according to a roommate at the Maxwell Recovery Center, and attended weekly therapy sessions thereafter.

There is no waiting period for firearms sales in Georgia, and the basic background check that Long passed would have taken less than 100 seconds to complete, according to the Giffords Law Center.

Igor Volsky, executive director of the advocacy group Guns Down America, pointed to the state’s no-wait law as a significant factor in the shootings. “I would really encourage Georgia and other states to look at what happened here and think about what they could do in order to reduce or prevent such incidents from happening again,” he told Newsweek.

Mike Wilensky, an attorney and Democratic party representative in Georgia’s state house, concurred.

“Waiting periods create an important ‘cooling off’ period that can help prevent impulsive acts of gun violence, including gun homicides and suicides,” he said in one of a series of tweets calling for new restrictions.

“We need to have a law in Georgia that after you apply for a gun there is a waiting period. I have never heard of someone in a rush to get a gun for a safe, good reason.”

Brown, meanwhile, said she saw new hope of achieving meaningful gun reforms at a national level for the first time in years, following the passage of the House bills intended to expand background checks and close the so-called gun show loophole that exempts event buyers from such checks.

Previous, similar measures that passed the House were kept off the Senate floor by the Republican former majority leader Mitch McConnell. Under Democrat Chuck Schumer’s control, the Senate will get to vote on at least one of this month’s proposals, even though reaching the necessary 60 votes to become law is unlikely.

“That is already more than it received in the last Congress under McConnell. It will be a conversation, but we know that there is bipartisan support for this bill,” Brown said.

“As many as 90% of Americans support universal background checks. If 90% support is not enough to pass a law in the US Senate it is clear that institutional fixes, like reforming the procedural filibuster, may be necessary.”

Joe Biden, a supporter of gun reform efforts, is under pressure from his party to eliminate the filibuster to allow other signature policy measures, such as the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, to become law on a simple majority vote.

“President Biden entered the White House with the strongest gun violence prevention platform of any incoming president,” Brown said.

“This is one of the best opportunities to meaningfully address gun violence in all of its forms that we have ever had.”




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