Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R.) went after his likely Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams stance towards guns on Friday.
The incumbent Republican Governor did not mince words on his potential Democratic challenger during an exclusive interview on The Weekly Reload Podcast.
“Well, I think if you really translate what she’s saying is she doesn’t want law-abiding people to have firearms and to be able to carry,” Kemp said.
The Governor’s remarks come as the gubernatorial race is beginning to heat up ahead of election season this November. Kemp—who is also facing a primary challenge from former Senator David Perdue (R.)—will be looking to retain his position in the Governor’s mansion in a potential rematch against Abrams, whom he defeated in 2018. Gun politics have recently played an increasingly prominent role in Georgia, as major firearms manufacturers moved to the state and the general assembly is taking up multiple pieces of gun legislation.
Permitless gun-carry has become the center point of the debate after Kemp promised to get the policy passed into law this year.
Should a permitless carry bill pass, Georgia would become the 22nd state to adopt the policy. That would mean anyone legally able to purchase a gun can carry it, openly or concealed, without first obtaining a permit. The practice has recently become popular in Republican-led states, with 19 states adopting the policy since 2010. Five states made the switch to a permitless carry regime in 2021 alone.
Abrams, the current favorite to secure the Democratic nomination in the race for Governor, has been a vocal critic of the state’s permitless carry push. During a radio interview in Atlanta last month, she suggested that the permitless carry bills currently being considered would give dangerous people greater access to firearms.
“It is not simply about the crimes being committed; it’s about how safe we are in our own communities,” Abrams said at the time. “Why we would make it easier for people who have felonies, who have mental illnesses, who have demonstrated a lack of responsibility… why would we make it easier for them to carry weapons? Why would we make it easier for our communities to be put in harm’s way?”
Kemp criticized her remarks and suggested that the proposed legislation would not change who could legally carry a firearm.
“Obviously, those individuals shouldn’t be allowed to carry,” Kemp said. “The legislation would prevent that. But when you have people that break the law, they don’t really care about this. This is about letting lawful people be able to carry their weapon and protect themselves.”
In a statement given to The Reload, officials with the Abrams campaign stood by her previous comments on permitless carry. They also accused Kemp of changing his tune on the policy due to his reelection bid.
“Brian Kemp knows that his legislation – which he did not seriously advocate until he faced a tough primary challenge – is opposed by 7 in 10 Georgians and would make it easier for many criminals to carry concealed weapons on our streets,” Seth Bringman, a spokesperson for Abrams, said. “The permit system was just fine to him for the first three years he was in office.”
Kemp then criticized Abrams over her support for gun confiscation.
“What’s more concerning about Stacey Abrams is her words prior to what she said on WSB radio, and it’s that she wants to confiscate your guns,” Kemp said.
During her time in the state House, Abrams was one of six co-sponsors of a 2016 Georgia bill that would have banned the sale and possession of so-called assault weapons and “large-capacity” magazines. It would have given Georgia residents 90 days to destroy or surrender their “assault weapons” and magazines. Those that didn’t would risk “seizure” by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The bill ultimately failed, and she has since attempted to remain ambiguous about whether or not she favors a confiscatory approach.
The Abrams campaign told The Reload that the Governor’s comments on gun confiscation were simply “scare tactics.”
“Stacey Abrams supports the Second Amendment with common sense gun safety laws supported by a majority of gun owners,” Bringman said.
The Governor touted his approach to handling the pandemic where he said he made sure gun stores, shooting ranges, and other businesses were allowed to stay open. He contrasted his policies to the more heavy-handed approach taken by other Governors, and one he also attributed to Abrams.
“It’s now more important than ever who your Governor is,” he said. “Because you’ve literally seen one person in a lot of states throughout the country act more like a dictator than a Governor and prohibit people from having rights and freedoms that we’re accustomed to in this country. That’s what I’m fighting for in this great state that we live in, and she would take us in the complete opposite direction.”
Kemp said he was confident in his chances of reelection this November if Abrams secures the Democratic nomination.
“I’m the only candidate in the race that can beat her, and it’s vital that we do,” he said. “It’s vital not only for our economy and for our families in Georgia, but it’s vital for our Second Amendment rights as well.”
The full interview with Kemp will be available to Reload subscribers on Sunday and everyone else on Monday.
Voters will decide on their parties’ respective nominees on May 24th. After that, the general election will be held on November 8th.
UPDATE 2-11-2022 1:00 PM EST: This story has been updated to include comments from the Abrams campaign.