A Georgia gun shop owner said he is closing his store in the wake of several mass shootings targeting young children, as the country reels from recent attacks and an escalating rate of killings.
Jon Waldman, a gun shop owner in Duluth, Georgia, said that he had already closed his store and will have the gun inventory cleared out by 15 June, NBC News reported.
Waldman told NBC that recent mass shootings, one at a Christian school in Nashville and another attack at an Atlanta hospital, have weighed on his conscience as he has no control over what a customer could do with a purchased weapon.
“I’m not against the second amendment. But just with my conscience, I can’t sell it, because I don’t know who it’s going to affect and hurt,” Waldman said, referring to the constitutional right to bear arms in the US.
“That’s what eats at me,” Waldman added to NBC. “If it can happen, it’s only a matter of time until it does happen.”
On 27 March, a 28-year-old gunman killed three children and three adults at Covenant school, a Christian elementary school in Nashville. The 28-year-old shooter, a former student of the school, was killed by police.
Less than two months later, a 24-year-old man killed one person and injured four in an Atlanta hospital.
“That really affected me,” Waldman told NBC, referring to the Covenant school shooting. “And then the shooting at midtown [Atlanta] – this just has to stop. Dude killed a woman from the CDC who only wanted to help others. So I just can’t. That was the final straw.”
Friday marks national gun violence awareness day, as 2023 is on track to set a record for annual mass killings. The total is on pace to hit 60 this year, compared to 36 in 2022 and 28 in 2021.
Vice -President Kamala Harris will give remarks on Friday afternoon to mark the anti-gun violence day. Harris, joined by the education secretary, Miguel Cardona, will travel to Springfield, Virginia, to discuss the Biden administration’s actions and aspirations on gun safety.
A total of 21 people – 19 students and two teachers – were killed at an elementary school in Uvalde. The gunman was killed by police after a long delay when they held back from entering the building and then engaging the perpetrator.
Biden said that too many schools had become “killing fields”, and urged Congress to pass a ban on assault riffles, military-grade weapons that are frequently used in mass shootings.
Meanwhile, Tennessee’s governor, Bill Lee, attacked the National Riffle Association (NRA) as the state, which generally has very loose gun regulations, grapples with how to move forward.
Lee, a Republican, accused the gun lobby group of wanting to use involuntary commitment laws “to round up mentally ill people and deprive them of other liberties”, according to government documents.
The documents were obtained by the Associated Press via a public records request. The talking points were drafted by Lee’s office in April, as the governor announced a gun control proposal.
Lee’s office wrote in the memo that the NRA’s plan “does not get at the heart of the problem, as it fails to address unstable individuals who suffer from mental health issues but do not qualify for involuntary commitment to a facility”.
Lee’s comments criticizing the NRA are rare coming from a Republican, especially as the NRA helped Lee pass a 2021 law that allows people 21 and older to carry handguns without a permit in Tennessee.
In response to several shootings, Lee has proposed keeping firearms away from people who could harm themselves or others. His proposal has faced opposition from several rightwing groups, including the NRA.
But Lee has defended his proposal as the best way to support second amendment rights versus how proposals for involuntary commitment could threaten such rights and other liberties.
“Not only is the NRA’s proposal impractical – it would drastically expand the scope of government,” read one of the memos.