It has not been a good week for Georgia.
Casey Cagle made a campaign stunt out of Delta’s reaction to the Parkland murders, trying to “engage the base” as the pundits call it. So now the state’s top employer as well as best prospect we’ll see this century — Amazon — could be in flux. Brilliant strategy especially as 50,000 high-paying jobs are more possible than ever.
Brian Kemp, one of his rivals for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, took a different approach: A sales tax holiday on gun purchases. Sure, that’s fair. After all, we have one in Georgia for back-to-school supplies most summers so why not something else closely associated with our classrooms today: automatic weapons.
The debate, at least in the Peach State, has been hijacked from the real issue: Parkland and preventing the next slaughter of students and educators.
So how about a truce? How about Republicans and Democrats and corporations and lobbyists stand down for a few months.
Instead, do the right thing. And the only person who can do that is a man who’s wife spent years in the classroom: Gov. Nathan Deal.
The two-term governor is months away from retirement. He’s established a legacy of promoting Georgia as a great place to base or expand a business — a position jeopardized by a crop of fellow Republicans pandering for votes to take his place (see the lead headline of Sunday’s AJC atop this column).
Deal has an option before him that can put Georgia back in the lead, and perhaps put the state ahead of school-based violence.
The solution: Call a special session of the General Assembly and focus on the key issues relating to school safety. It was an idea brought up during our “roundtable” on the Hometown Headlines Radio Edition on WRGA on Friday by a colleague and it is the best solution we’ve heard.
This special legislative session would drill into the specific issues of school safety: mass-casualty weapons access, mental health concerns, fundamental school safety procedures, enhanced law enforcement training, social media monitoring and counseling.
There’s time to act before we begin the 2018-19 school year; the earlier the better as it would give school systems time to make (or at least start) specific changes.
Already we’re seeing the business sector take a lead. More stores are ending the sale of automatic weapons and requiring purchasers — among other things — be at least 21.
We’re seeing local law enforcement teams and school administrators sitting together at the table to plot immediate safety upgrades. Some are as basic as securing fences around area schools.
We’re seeing students make the right choice when hearing or seeing their classmates do or say something stupid. Tattletales? No, potential lifesavers.
In Georgia, we have a chance to make a difference. We have a governor who has taken bold steps already, some that are contrary to his party and even to his base.
That makes him a leader, not a politician.
Deal, more than any officer-holder in Georgia, is immune from any potential political fallout or backlash. He needs to use his authority and his political invulnerability to help craft a statewide solution to school violence.
We’ve known Nathan Deal since the early 1990s, including his days in the state Senate representing Northeast Georgia, in Congress and now as Georgia’s governor.
We believe he, too, is ready to say #enough.