In the wake of the mass shooting in Atlanta in which nine people were shot, including eight fatally – seven of whom were women, and six of whom were Asian women – and the mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado in which 10 people were shot and killed, Georgia lawmakers have the opportunity to consider key reforms on a broad spectrum of issues, and to stand with AAPI communities and leaders calling for action. Gun safety is one issue lawmakers should focus on.
Georgia has some of the weakest gun laws in the country. The state does not currently require a background check on all gun sales, nor does it empower loved ones and law enforcement to temporarily remove access to firearms from those who are a danger to themselves or others. Instead of focusing on weakening gun laws with bills like HB 218 or voter suppression bills like SB 202, here are four policies which would help strengthen Georgia’s gun safety laws:
- SB 309/HB 788, introduced by AAPI lawmakers in Georgia including Sen. Michelle Au and Rep. Sam Park, is life-saving legislation that would create a 5-day waiting period before someone could purchase a firearm.
- SB 179, introduced by Sen. Au, would require background checks on all gun sales. This would close a dangerous loophole by which people who are otherwise prohibited from purchasing firearms can acquire them through an online sale, a gun show, or from another unlicensed sale.
- HB 309, introduced by Rep. Matthew Wilson, would create an Extreme Risk law in Georgia. This would enable loved ones and law enforcement to temporarily remove access to firearms from those who pose a significant danger to themselves or others.
- Rep. Bee Nguyen and Sen. Tonya Anderson have introduced legislation (HB 505/SB 254) that would repeal Georgia’s dangerous, racist ‘Stand Your Ground’ law. Georgia’s so-called “Stand Your Ground” law encourages armed vigilantism and allows a person to kill another person in public even if the shooter could have safely walked away from danger. These laws are associated with increases in homicide rates translating to more than 150 additional gun deaths each month nationwide.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a rise in violence against the AAPI community at large, and particularly against AAPI women. And violence against women, fueled by misogyny, racism, and fetishization, and made more deadly by easy access to guns, has plagued the United States for generations.
The shootings occurred in the context of a rising tide of violence against the AAPI community, and misogyny and gun violence are often linked. Additional information is below:
The Pandemic and Hate Against the AAPI Community:
- Stop AAPI Hate received nearly 3,800 reports of anti-Asian hate incidents from March 2020 to February 2021. Police departments in the 16 largest cities in the United States reported a nearly 150% increase in hate crimes targeting Asian Americans in 2020, and nationally, Asian American women were more than twice as likely to be targeted in hate incidents as Asian American men.
- Even before these disturbing trends appeared, we had already seen the deadly impact of former President Donald Trump’s racism and misogyny. Fueled by racism against Latino/a/x communities, the El Paso shooter’s white supremacist manifesto could have been taken straight from the former president’s Twitter feed.
- Any time the former president, NRA leadership, or right-wing media extremists repeat racist tropes about the pandemic – as the former president did last Tuesday night – the entire AAPI community is placed in even more danger.
Misogyny and Gun Violence:
- The horrific public attacks we saw are sadly just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to violence against women. Every month in the U.S., an average of 53 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner.
- A Mother Jones investigation in 2019 found “a stark pattern of misogyny and domestic violence among many attackers” and “a strong overlap between toxic masculinity and public mass shootings.”
- By a more than 2:1 margin, racially-motivated attacks against Asian Americans during the pandemic targeted Asian-American women.
- According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “as a driver to radicalization, misogyny works alongside racism, antisemitism and perceptions of waning civil rights in the face of increasing equality.”
- While there are many reasons for this kind of misogyny and violence, weak gun laws are a key factor in the risks women in the U.S. face. And while some of this is going to take a long time to address at its core, strengthening our gun laws at the state and federal levels, like passing background checks legislation, and reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act can go a long way toward protecting women right now.
Fetishization of Asian Women and Violence:
- According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), “while there are segments of Asian communities that enjoy privileges that other communities of color are not afforded, the current structures of power and privilege negatively and dangerously impact the experiences of Asian women in unique ways. The bodies of Asian women are exoticized and hypersexualized, and the perceived submissiveness of some Asian cultures is glamourized and erotized. This fetishization reduces Asian women to an inaccurate and detrimental stereotype, and creates staggering rates of violence.”
- According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 19.6% of Asian or Pacific Islander women in the United States reported that they have been the victim of of rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.