Georgia passed a new gun law last week that caught the attention of advocates on both sides of the issue. The so-called "guns everywhere" bill, which allows people to bear firearms in bars, churches, airports and even some government buildings, is one of the most permissive gun laws on the books. But already, the state is getting some bad publicity in the wake of the bill's passage.
On Monday, a 19-year-old FedEx worker from Kennesaw, Ga., went on a shooting spree at his workplace, wounding six people before turning the gun on himself. Though the shooter's motive is still unknown, witnesses said he came into work with a grim determination to kill.
"He had bullets strapped across his chest like Rambo, a huge assault rifle and he had a knife," co-worker Liza Aiken said.
In situations like this, there is little sense in trying to rationalize what happened. Details of the incident still have not been released, and there is no way to know if the shooter would have hurt others if he didn't have access to guns.
But one thing is clear: The timing and the location of this particular incident cannot be ignored.
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Kennesaw is no ordinary town: Kennesaw is a rather special place: Since 1982, the Atlanta suburb has been one of the only towns in America that requires every household to own a firearm. The law is not strictly enforced, but gun ownership is still over 50% — well over the national average of 34%.
And the law seems to have been effective until now. Despite the population increasing six-fold over the past 30 years, crime has dropped 29% during the same time period. Violent crime is very rare in the town, and there have only been three murders since 2000.
"People are more aware we have this law on the books, and you might think twice before coming here to do something criminal," Kennesaw Mayor Mark Matthews said last year. And in spite of this isolated incident, the town's 30-year streak of low crime still holds.
Bad timing: But location is not the only striking factor in this story. Monday's shooting comes merely days after Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed the new gun law, which has already attracted a ton of bad press from gun control advocates. Americans for Responsible Solutions, the gun control group founded by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), even called it "the most extreme gun bill in America."
And though the law won't take effect until July 1, the Kennesaw shooting is already forcing Deal into defensive mode.
"It's certainly a tragedy any time you have deaths of that nature. It's one of those things that we hate to have happen in our state," he said when reporters pressed him on the link between the bill's passage and the shooting days later.
There's no knowing whether the Kennesaw incident will affect the implementation of the new gun law. The bill passed the state legislature by a wide margin, and Deal has expressed his firm support in the past. But perhaps the sudden shock of violence in an otherwise peaceful town might make him reconsider his decision.