Atlanta Shooting Suspect Bought Gun on Day of Rampage

Gun-control advocates say the massage parlor shootings may have been prevented if there had been a five-day waiting period for firearm purchases.

Hollis Wright collects her thoughts as she becomes emotional Wednesday in front of the Gold Spa in Atlanta, where multiple people were killed in last week’s shooting. (John Spink/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

(CN) — Hours before police say he gunned down eight people in three metro Atlanta massage parlors on March 16, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long purchased a firearm at Big Woods Goods in Holly Springs.

When Long was arrested in Crisp County later that day, police found he was in possession of a 9mm handgun. The semi-automatic pistol holds up to 18 cartridges. According to The Gun Source, 9mm pistols are “the most popular and versatile handguns in the world.”

In Georgia, there is no waiting period to purchase firearms, which gun-control advocates say is part of the reason that the Peach State is struggling to curb gun violence. Passing a swift background check is the only requirement to buy a gun on the spot. Georgia has stricter laws on abortion, requiring a 24-hour waiting period.

Only 10 states, as well as the District of Columbia, require waiting periods for purchasing a gun.

Georgia state Representative Shea Roberts said a waiting period could have prevented last week’s deadly shooting rampage.

“It’s all about stemming impulsive decision-making,” the Atlanta Democrat said. “If Georgia can require someone to wait 30 days for a no-fault divorce, then five days for a gun is more than reasonable. In addition to slowing people down, it gives law enforcement adequate time to complete background checks. The benefit of potentially saving lives certainly outweighs having to wait a few days.”

But Jerry Henry, executive director of gun-rights group Georgia Carry, said “there is no credible study in the U.S. that shows a waiting period has any effect on homicides.”

“Had the shooter in Atlanta been subject to a five-day waiting period, it would have, in all probability, just delayed his heinous crime by five days,” Henry said.

Gregory Magarian, a constitutional law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, disagreed with that rationale and said that “the notion that guns don’t make any difference in the social incidence of violence is so absurd that it basically undercuts any other argument that someone would make with that premise.”

Magarian pointed to the 2008 Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia vs. Heller siding with gun-rights activists. The 5-4 decision concluded that D.C.’s handgun ban and trigger-lock requirement violated the Second Amendment, but also said Second Amendment rights are not unlimited.

“I think there’s a perfectly good argument that you can embrace Heller and still say nobody should be able to have an AR-15,” he said. “The framers couldn’t have conceived any of this weapon technology, just the ordinary day to day gun crime in this country.”

The Georgia House passed HB 218 with a 103-69 vote along party lines in February, which would allow concealed-carry permits from other states. Republican Representative Mandi Ballinger, one of the bill’s sponsors, said at a House committee meeting in February that “nobody has lower standards than Georgia for a concealed-carry permit.”

Kailee Eidson, a volunteer with the Georgia chapter of Moms Demand Action, said HB 218 is dangerous for Georgia.

“There’s never a good time to weaken our gun laws,” she said. “But now, in the wake of these mass shootings, is absolutely the worst time. Allowing people from other states – some of which have weaker gun laws – to carry in our state will make our gun violence epidemic worse.”

The legislation has support from the National Rifle Association, which claimed on its website that during the Covid-19 pandemic “many anti-gun officials, at both state and local levels of government, took  the opportunity to unilaterally  suspend Second Amendment rights by shutting down gun stores and gun ranges.”

The NRA did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

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