November 3, 2022

Gabby Giffords Savannah
Gun violence prevention advocate Gabby Giffords appeared alongside Savannah’s mayor and spoke to volunteers for Stacey Abrams. Credit: Jake Shore

Giffords brings gun violence message

Prominent gun safety advocate and former congresswoman Gabby Giffords came to Savannah last week for the SCAD Film Festival, which showcased her film documenting her life before and after an assassin shot her in the head and killed six others.

Since her recovery, Giffords has campaigned for gun law reform and against lobby organizations like the National Rifle Association. Her struggles with aphasia due to her brain injury from the 2011 shooting have shaped her views about gun safety measures, which are at odds with the legislation passed by the Georgia legislature in the spring and supported by incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp, the Republican running for re-election next week.

On the sideline of the film festival, Giffords offered a morale boost to local supporters of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who has made opposition to that law part of her campaign.

“I learned when people care for each other, and work together, progress is possible,” Giffords told the group. “A good world is possible. But change doesn’t happen overnight.”

The new law allows Georgia gun owners to carry a concealed weapon in public without a permit. Kemp praised it as a measure that ensures law-abiding citizens can arm themselves legally while criminals can get guns outside the law.

Giffords’ gun violence prevention group criticized the law back in April, stating it makes “it easier for people with demonstrated histories of violence — including people convicted of certain violent hate crimes and domestic violence offenses — to carry hidden loaded guns outside the home.”

Formulytics company
Screenshot from Formulytics website of its investigations software, used in Georgia

Glynn County: Clearer paths, investigative software

Clinic for clean slates: The Georgia Justice Project, along with the Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney, community group A Better Glynn and several other organizations, plans to host an expungement clinic for Glynn County residents on Nov. 12, according to A Better Glynn co-founder Elijah “Bobby” Henderson.

The clinic allows individuals to bring their criminal histories to an attorney for review and get assistance applying for record restriction and sealing (100 people have already registered). The federal National Institute of Justice wrote on Oct. 26 that permanent criminal records can torpedo job and housing applications long past a person’s crime and punishment, increasing the risk of returning to criminal behavior.

The clinic will take place at the Rise Risley building on 1800 Albany Street in Brunswick at 10 a.m. Nov. 12.

Gang software: Last month, Brunswick DA Keith Higgins touted a $100,000 grant to fund an “investigative case file system” from a Buckhead-based company called Formulytics, in order to assist prosecution of gangs in South Georgia. The company’s software is now in use from Atlanta to Augusta, and there are questions about the company’s transparency, how it keeps its data and who its customers are, according to The SaportaReport in April.

Who gets to vote?

As election day approaches and big decisions for most Coastal Georgia voters are ahead (linked is The Current‘s voter resource list), it is important to consider who does and doesn’t get to vote in the state.

A report out last month from the Sentencing Project estimates that around 3% of the voting-age population in Georgia is blocked from voting this year due to felony conviction restrictions.

Laws in 48 states, including Georgia, restrict people with felony convictions from voting. Voting rights advocates say the laws overly punish and inhibit a person’s rehabilitation. And, they are rooted in post-Reconstruction policies that originally intended to keep Black people from voting.

In 2019, Republicans in Georgia’s state legislature defended felony restrictions to vote as an adequate consequence of committing a crime. Georgians convicted of a felony cannot vote until they complete their prison sentence, probation, or parole.

Important to note: Georgia has the highest rate of people on probation/legal supervision in the country.

U.S. Army soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., Oct. 26, 2012. (DVIDS)

New hope for soldiers, families

The Current recently reported on two suicides and a gun death between July and October among Army Rangers from the elite 75th Regiment at Hunter Army Airfield.

After the story published, current and former Army service members based out of Fort Stewart contacted The Current, noting how difficult it is for Army Rangers to reach out for mental health assistance due to their rigorous training and expectations of excellence. They also said few resources are available for treatment. Across the U.S., military suicides are rising.

One promising development in Coastal Georgia to respond to this need: On Oct. 25, a mental healthcare facility officially opened in Hinesville serving active duty military, their families and veterans, according to a press release.

The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic on West Memorial Drive was established partly due to its proximity to Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, the release said.

The facility’s executive director, Belinda Sharp, told a local TV station last week it will provide individual, couples, and family therapy in addition to service with “no barriers to care, even accommodating same-day access.”

Clarification from Wednesday’s Coast Watch newsletter: If you’d like to watch a recording of the film “Okefenokee Destiny” and the panel discussion, you’ll need to register online to do it. Here’s the link and the passcode is Ph.p9P03

Have a question, comment, or story idea? Email me at

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Jake Shore covers public safety and the courts system in Savannah and Coastal Georgia. He is also a Report for America corps member. Prior to joining The Current, Jake worked for the Island Packet and...