In reaction to the recent shootings at massage parlors in metro Atlanta that left eight people dead, including six women of Asian descent, Democratic lawmakers in Georgia have introduced a slew of bills, but it’s doubtful they’ll see action anytime soon.
The plans would impose a five-day waiting period for gun sales, establish a statewide 911 call translation system, and improve law enforcement training with an emphasis on outreach in other languages. Democrats say they’re reacting to reports that people who didn’t speak fluent English had difficulty communicating with responding officers, as well as reports that the gunman purchased a gun the morning of the shootings.
The bills are unlikely to pass this year because they are too late for procedural deadlines and there are just a few days left in the legislative session, which ends on March 31. Furthermore, any legislation restricting gun purchases is likely to be met with fierce resistance in the Republican-controlled legislature.
“We’re certainly looking forward to next session, only because of the way the process is going,” Democratic state Rep. Marvin Lim, who is one of the Asian American legislators supporting the bills, said. “However, that isn’t the point. He said that “we needed to act now and send a message” to the mourning communities, as well as begin a dialogue with law enforcement agencies about accessibility.
“The three bills seek to address different device failures,” Lim said.
Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old white man, is accused of murdering eight people at three different massage parlors in the Atlanta area. Another individual was wounded, but he or she was unharmed.
Rep. Sam Park, a Democrat, is the prime sponsor of a bill that would impose a five-day waiting period for gun purchases.
“This is a common-sense initiative to minimize gun abuse, based on impulsivity, based on rage,” Park said. “I think we’re all astounded that this man, the gunman, was able to get a gun and kill eight people in less than 24 hours.”
Park agreed that the bill would be impossible to pass in Georgia, where Republicans hold the governorship and the General Assembly. However, he predicted that gun control would be a major concern in the 2022 gubernatorial election, as all of those positions will be on the ballot.
“It’s important to show the people that we’re fighting for them, that we’re fighting to protect our community so that these kinds of tragic events don’t happen again,” Park said.
Tyler Harper, a Republican state senator who has introduced gun-rights bills in the past, says he opposes a five-day waiting period.
Harper said, “I believe it is an undue burden on law-abiding citizens’ ability to access and exercise their constitutional rights.”
In the aftermath of the killings, Democrats introduced two more bills aimed at improving communication between minority communities and law enforcement. One plan calls for the Georgia Emergency Response Authority to set up a statewide 911 call translation system. The other will require the Georgia agency in charge of law enforcement training to provide community response and strategic outreach training in languages other than English.
Sen. Sheikh Rahman, a Democrat from Bangladesh, was the first person of Asian origin to be elected to the Georgia state Senate.
“I have people from over a hundred different countries that speak over a hundred different languages. In our culture, reporting is a major issue,” said Rahman, whose first language is Bengali.
Although 911 center leaders admit that translation is a problem, they claim that many 911 centers have already solved it by using on-call translation services.
The secretary of the Georgia Emergency Response Authority, which aims to strengthen emergency communications in Georgia, is William Wright, the manager of Barrow County E-911. He said that although each emergency dispatch center is managed on a local level and can vary, the use of translation services is popular nationwide.
“The dispatcher will call a number and an interpreter will come on the line,” Wright explained.
He claims that this is a more realistic choice than attempting to employ multilingual operators. “Our city and our country are so diverse now that staffing a 911 center with someone who can speak every language is extremely difficult,” Wright said.
Rahman said that he wanted law enforcement officers to receive “basic instruction” as well as easy access to interpreters. “Just to get the conversation started,” he said, officers could carry a simple reference card with some basic phrases in popular foreign languages.
“You don’t have to be a linguist,” Rahman said.
Mario Gonzalez, the husband of shooting victim Delaina Ashley Yaun, was detained, according to Park, and his arrest is just one example of why police need to be better at dealing with minorities. Gonzalez, who survived the assault, claims he was kept in handcuffs for four hours after the incident.
An email sent to the Georgia Public Safety Training Center, which trains several police officers throughout the state, was not immediately returned.
On Tuesday, the Democrats who are sponsoring the bills released a joint statement calling for action.
The statement said, “We look to our past and where this country has been, and we look forward to the change we need to see.”