How Andisheh Nouraee Would Fix Atlanta

How Andisheh Nouraee Would Fix Atlanta
photo by Dustin Chambers

How I’d Fix Atlanta — Melt the Guns (And Make a Memorial)
Andisheh Nouraee

I used to think saying you’re going to leave the country if a certain person is elected or a certain law is passed was less a passionate statement of principle than an annoying expression of privilege.

It was a popular sentiment during the Bush era and, at the time, it reminded me of how Kurt Vonnegut advised writers to avoid using semicolons because they show nothing except that the writer has been to college. To me, “I’m moving to Europe if [BAD THING]  happens” used to show nothing except that you’ve been to Amsterdam or Florence and have fond memories of sativa or lampredotto.

But situations change. Perspectives change. Opinion writers occasionally grow up.

I no longer think it’s showing off to express one’s wish to GTFO. It’s really not at all that outrageous to want to leave a state ruled by right-wing religious fanatics—a Republican Party of men who revoked women’s autonomy over their reproductive systems while simultaneously working to grant people total autonomy over their gas-powered leaf blowers.

So yeah, leave Georgia if you must. It’s not my business and I’m a little sorry for ever thinking it was.

I am a child of two parents who bounced from their country of birth and came to the U.S. America is a nation of people who GTFO in one form or another—immigrants who left their countries of birth for opportunity; refugees forced to flee their homes because of war, disasters, or totalitarianism; Black people who fled the Jim Crow south during the Great Migration.

But How I’d Fix Atlanta is about staying, not leaving. It’s about imagining a better—and possibly even more mega—place to live. My life here is good, but I think about leaving sometimes because of my kids. My inclination to be a good ATLien and participate in efforts to improve things for everyone is increasingly at odds with my parental obligations. My fears are partly about the right-wing assault on reproductive rights, but they’re mostly about the Georgia Republican Party’s favorite extra-uterine kink: guns.

This essay is brought to you in part by Topping Realty. Longtime ATLien Jason Topping loves thinking up new ways to make Atlanta a better place to live.

You’re almost certainly aware that the United States has an extraordinarily high rate of death by firearms compared to other countries. But just in case you’re not, here are some facts: the U.S.’ age-adjusted gun homicide rate is more than seven times higher than Canada’s, 33 times higher than Australia’s, and 452 times higher than the United Kingdom's.

Put another way: more fictional Britons are murdered during a season of the bucolic police procedural Midsomer Murders than are murdered IRL in the UK.

As bad as our country's overall gun violence problem is, Georgia’s gun violence problem is somehow still significantly worse. Georgia’s death rate by firearms—a stat that combines murders, accidents, and suicide—is 38% higher than the national average (20.3 deaths per 100,000 people vs. 14.7 nationwide).

Because a national average includes all the messed up places that are just as gun-drunk as Georgia, comparing us to the national average actually understates Georgia’s gun violence problem. Compare Georgia directly to states that aren’t as gun-lovin’ and the severity of crisis is clearer. Georgia’s death-by-guns rate is more than twice as high as California’s, and nearly four times as high as New Jersey’s and New York’s.

At the top of my GTFO fear list are mass shootings generally, and school shootings particularly. 2023 saw a record 38 mass shootings (incidents with four or more dead). The previous record was 36. That was way back in 2022.

Fifteen Americans won the Mega Millions and Powerball last year. When I go into a gas station to buy a Powerball, I’m more likely to get shot than I am to win the jackpot. Going to school, work, church, or the grocery store exposes Americans to gun violence at a rate that people in other countries do not experience or even really understand.

For Georgians, the risk is even higher. I’ve sincerely lost count of the number of times my kids’ school and after-school activities have been canceled or “locked down” because of nearby gunplay.

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So, how would I fix this terrible problem?

I’d ban the sale of most guns to most people. I’d require that all existing guns are secured in safes. I’d create a licensing program so people who like to hunt can hunt, people who like to skeet can skeet, and people whose farms are paid surprise visits by 30-50 feral hogs can protect those farms.

Everyone who isn’t willing to go along with a licensing system that’s approximately as strict as car and driver registration can turn in their guns for cash or start paying fines and eventually go to jail for having illegal guns.

People will complain that it’s Communist or totalitarian, but these are the same people who complain that income taxes, solar panels, and public transit are the spawn of Stalin. The sooner we all start ignoring those people, the better off we'll be. The better off they’ll be, too. Gun violence rates are higher in so-called red states than in blue ones.

Next, I’d start melting guns confiscated during arrests or after they’re used as evidence in trials. More guns means more gun deaths. Fewer guns will mean fewer gun deaths. It’s as simple as that. Melt the guns!

Last year I got in touch with a few artists and iron workers trying to figure out if I could melt my guns. (I’ve been a target shooter since I was a child and have owned guns forever. If the firearms fondue of my dreams is to become a reality, it might as well start with my guns. Be the change you wanna see, right?) As it turns out, the cocktail of different metals in guns would damage the equipment metal workers use to melt iron, so we’re going to have to buy our own gun melters. We’ll pay for them by finally holding gun companies accountable for their deadly products. Big Pharma, Big Tobacco, Big Auto, Big Asbestos, and Big Lawn Dart can be and are held liable in court for the killing and maiming they do. It’s time Big Gun pays up as well.

With the metal from the melted guns, I’m going to create plaques commemorating victims of gun violence. They’ll show a name, date of birth, and the day they died of a gunshot wound. They’ll be embedded in sidewalks so that people will see them when they’re going about their day.

"stumbling stones" in Amsterdam; photo by Andisheh Nouraee

I got the idea on a recent trip to Amsterdam, where small plaques called “stumbling stones” are embedded in sidewalks all over the city. Putting the markers in the places we walk by everyday would be a reminder that gun violence is ubiquitous. Maybe dozens of new memorials appearing on city sidewalks every month—a new one for every victim of gun violence—will help focus public efforts on stopping these killings.

To accompany the citywide sidewalk memorials, I’m also going to embed them in the sidewalk surrounding the Capitol, so that when legislators, the governor, and their associated staff members walk to and from the building, they’ll be reminded of the death their policies enable.

Would the Georgia Republicans who evidently cherish guns and gas leaf blowers more than they cherish my life, your life, or anyone’s life be moved by such a memorial? I don’t know. But I do think walking by the metal memorials of murdered children and through a metal detector to get into their offices might stir some consciences.

What metal detector, you ask?

You see, while Georgia Republicans have spent the last 20 years or so making it perfectly legal for nearly any idiot to take a gun nearly everywhere, there’s still one office that Republicans won’t let people bring their guns into—their very own. Guns are banned at the state Capitol. And honestly, that seems sensible to me. After all, someone might get shot.


If [BAD THING] happens and I decide to move, I’m leaning toward Amsterdam. It’s a delightful city with sidewalk booths that sell snack-sized portions of fresh herring garnished with pickles and onions. They’ve got french fry shops everywhere. The owners of Noni’s (R.I.P.) have an excellent nachos and cocktail bar there. It’s also where recent How I'd Fix Atlanta writer Jason Pellett went when Georgia’s embarrassing beer laws forced him to close his beloved ATL brewery, Orpheus.

But what I admire most about Amsterdam isn’t the nachos, fries, beer, herring, public transit, or bikes—even though all of that stuff pairs very nicely with legal sativa. I admire the city’s willingness to reckon with its sometimes horrific past as a way of catalyzing the difficult decisions required to be a better place. Amsterdam is a bike and transit paradise because city’s leaders—and voters—are more willing to incur short-term costs for longer-term benefits.

You can’t claim to value human life while remaining unwilling to take any steps to end Georgia’s gun-violence epidemic. Actually, some can and probably will make that claim. I’m just done accepting it.

Andisheh Nouraee is an author, communications strategist, and former journalist who has called Mega-Atlanta home since 1997. Find him online at and offline walking the dog.