Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, running for governor in the Republican primary, opposes any new regulation of guns, even banning bump stocks.
Arriving at the arranged time for an interview Friday, at the end of Cagle's campaign bus stop at RJ's Grill, the reporter caught the last of Cagle's remarks to the breakfast crowd about job creation and education. Those were also the first topics in the interview. But Cagle was also asked about gun violence, school safety and his reaction earlier this year to Delta Air Lines breaking its ties with the NRA.
"Well, first of all, schools need to be the safest place, and we have challenged all of our school systems across Georgia to, one, have a readiness program put in place," Cagle said. "Many of them have school resource officers that are there, and we believe that that is critically important, and the state has offered some additional resources, funding to help facilitate that as well."
The fact that the state has now fully funded kindergarten through 12th-grade education is one source of added money for school safety measures, he said. After cuts in the per-student funding to local school systems during the recession and slow recovery, Gov. Nathan Deal and the General Assembly restored the Quality Basic Education funding in phases. As lieutenant governor, Cagle presided over the Senate during this process.
Deal announced in March that QBE funding will be fully restored to pre-austerity levels with the 2018-19 budget, beginning July 1.
"So that is going to really, really help our local schools have more resources, funding, to do things that are necessary, and certainly some of that can be allocated to resource officers," Cagle said. "But we also want to expand the grant process to help those communities as well."
Asked if more gun regulation is needed, such as a ban on bump stocks, Cagle immediately said "No," and after a brief pause, "No" again.
"No, I do not believe that taking guns away from law-abiding citizens is the answer at all," he said. "I strongly believe in the 2nd Amendment and the right that we have to own and, obviously, to bear guns, plain and simple."
The reporter described a bump stock as a device for making a semiautomatic rifle fire like an automatic, with fully automatic weapons already illegal.
"I mean, obviously the federal government has looked at bump stocks and other things, so you could say the same thing about an assault rifle," Cagle said.
"But the reality is that we don't want guns in the hands of criminals, for sure, or those that are mentally ill, and I think there's a universal agreement within that," he said. "That's why we have background checks, you know, that's why we do things of that nature. But no, I'm not in favor of any additional gun regulation at all."
The shooter in the Oct. 1 Las Vegas massacre used assault rifles, some outfitted with bump stocks, to kill 58 people and wound many others.
Under instructions from President Donald Trump, the Justice Department has proposed treating bump stocks as illegal machine guns. Slide Fire Solutions, the largest manufacturer of bump stocks, recently announced that it will stop taking orders May 20 and shut down its website, The Associated Press reported.
Delta and NRA
Asked whether a jet fuel tax credit was eliminated because Delta Air Lines Inc. ended its relationship with the National Rifle Association, Cagle corrected the reporter's understanding of this. It wasn't a credit, but a total exemption that Delta sought.
After the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida, the NRA responded aggressively to calls for gun regulation, deriding them as efforts at political gain. Delta then announced that it was cancelling a group travel discount for the NRA's annual meeting and asked the organization to remove the airline's name and logo from the NRA website.
In a Feb. 26 Twitter message that Cagle called a "tweet heard around the world," he said he would kill any tax legislation that benefitted Delta unless the company reinstated its relationship with the NRA.
Two days later, a Senate committee stripped the exemption, which the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported was worth $50 million to Delta, from tax legislation.
But Delta was not penalized by losing anything the company already had, Cagle said Friday.
"They have the same benefits today that they had back then," he said. "But they were asking for an exemption on their jet fuel, and they engaged during that process in what I view as a very liberal boycott that was called upon, and they engaged in it, and as a result they had a decision to make and so did I, and I'm tired of conservatives, you know, continually getting really kicked around and so I pushed back, and I pushed back in a very vocal way."
Job creation and education remain Cagle's main emphasis, he said. He also touted these in a Statesboro visit reported Oct. 20.
"My plan is 500,000 jobs in the first four years, continuing to find ways to lower taxes to make Georgia more economically competitive in that area, along with rolling back regulations through economic development liaisons that we will put in place," Cagle said Friday.
He advocates expansion of the network of College and Career Academies he has led in developing. Created as partnerships of technical colleges and school systems with a mix of state grants and local funding, these now serve more than 30,000 students across Georgia.
"They're coming out certified in a career field, and they're able to make $40,000 or $50,000 a year, and we want more of that because that pipeline of workers that industry needs, existing industry but new industry as well, is how we continue that momentum for the state," Cagle said.
He is one of seven candidates for governor on the Republican primary ballot, while there are two candidates for governor in the Democratic primary. Early voting opened Monday for the May 22 primaries.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.