A crowd of Glennville Rotarians attended the club’s monthly meeting Wednesday to enjoy lunch, catch up on club information and hear U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson speak.
Isakson was welcomed by Rotary club members and guests, including Georgia State Rep. Delvis Dutton, former Georgia Board of Corrections Chairman Wayne Dasher and students from Pineville Christian School. Club President Donald Fountain said Isakson is a businessman and a family man who has logged nearly 40 years as a public servant. Isakson served 17 years in the Georgia legislature, two years as chairman of the Georgia Board of Education and six years in the U.S. House of Representatives. He first was elected to the Senate in 2004.
Isakson said there were a lot of "hot issues" he wanted to talk about, but for Georgia residents, he thought the most pertinent issue was proposed gun-control legislation.
"Mayor (Michael) Bloomberg of New York has been running some ads — I don’t know if you’ve seen them — trying to get you to encourage me to support their plan for a ban on assault weapons," he said. "A lot of people have contacted me and said, ‘Don’t you dare.’ Mayor Bloomberg is not getting a very good return on his money," Isakson said.
He said the advertisement depicts a "Georgia boy" sitting on the tailgate of his pickup, shotgun across his lap, claiming no one is going to take away his hunting guns. Isakson said the man doesn’t represent any Georgians he knows. Clad in a flannel shirt and hunting cap, the bearded man said he supports the Second Amendment but also supports comprehensive, universal background checks, which supposedly will keep guns out of criminals’ hands. Isakson disagrees with the commercial.
Isakson said criminals don’t buy their guns legally. He also said extending background checks to include examining mental-health records accomplishes nothing because of personal privacy laws preventing release of mental-health information. Only law-abiding citizens would be affected.
He said the school shooting last year in Newtown, Conn., is not an excuse for trying something that already has failed. A ban on assault weapons previously was attempted, and it didn’t prevent the tragedy at Columbine High School or other shootings, Isakson said, adding that it’s criminals — not guns — who need to be controlled.
The legislator thinks many people do not understand the Second Amendment. He said the Constitution would not have passed without the Bill of Rights, and the Bill of Rights would not have passed if it denied people the right to keep and bear arms — not for hunting or even self-defense, but so people can protect themselves from their own government.
Isakson also touched on sequestration, which he called "a very horrible poison pill" but said it appears to be having its intended effect, noting the Senate recently passed its first budget in four years. He said the economy still is sluggish but pointed to Congress finally making key parts of the Bush tax cuts permanent as evidence things are headed in the right direction. Seven days after the tax bill passed, he said, more than $7 billion went into the stock market from investors, who previously were hesitant to invest with so much uncertainty about tax rates.
"We owe $16.5 trillion, which means we’re about broke," Isakson said, noting that billions of dollars come out of the budget through entitlements without a congressional vote. "Congress has got to cut discretionary spending."
Isakson also talked about looming threats from North Korea, Iran and North Africa. Responding to questions from a Rotary member, he acknowledged that he had been invited by the president to ask 11 other Republican senators to meet with him for dinner to discuss topics of their choice. He also was asked whether Fort Stewart would be affected by cuts in military spending. Georgia’s junior senator said he expects to see some cuts in spending but not deep cuts or changes that affect Fort Stewart.