CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WSAV) — Chatham County is taking aim at gun violence, passing a resolution Friday morning to find ways to reduce crime in the county.
“We needed to send a stronger message about the gun violence that was going on and about violence, period,” said Chairman Chester Ellis. “I don’t care what kind of weapon you use, I don’t care if it’s even your fist. Violence needs to stop. And that’s what this is about.”
Ellis said gun violence is not a political issue, but one that hurts the entire community. The resolution calls for the county to improve gun violence research and prevention, working with local law enforcement to reduce the number of weapons illegally in the hands of residents.
“Why does a 16-year-old feel the need in Chatham County or in the United States to carry a gun?” Ellis said. “That ultimately hurts an infant. So, to change folks’ minds, to make them feel safer.”
It also encourages disarming people convicted of domestic abuse, as well as funding mental health and trauma services.
“The issue of gun violence is complex and deeply rooted in our culture, which is why we must take a public health approach to ensuring our families and communities are safe,” the resolution reads. “We must place a renewed emphasis on improving gun injury and violence research.”
In partnership with the National Association of Counties, the resolution will put forth the Greenlight program to bring awareness to gun violence.
The majority of commissioners voted in favor of the resolution, but some said they are concerned it will interfere with people’s right to legally own guns.
“I don’t see where the local government needs to be brought into a hot-button, Washington D.C. political hot topic that they use to divide our country,” said District 7 Commissioner Dean Kicklighter, who voted against the resolution. “If you’re scared for your life, it’s nice to be able to have something to protect yourself. And I just don’t want to advance in the direction that takes away our rights.”
Commissioners who voted in favor of the resolution emphasized the program will not prevent someone from going through the legal procedure to own a weapon.
“I think it is us as a county taking a stance and making a commitment to not only support further outreach and further insight, or evaluation, of gun laws and how we actually govern guns here in our county,” said District 6 Commissioner Aaron Whitely.
Data from the Chatham County Police Department shows last year, 73 guns were stolen from cars. But so far this year, violent crime is down by 20%, according to department data.