Republicans in the legislature last week passed several bills that would loosen gun restrictions and they did so just hours after a mass shooting at Michigan State University and during the same week that at least four guns were found at schools in central North Carolina.
Apparently looking for ways to make their constituents less safe, Republicans in the Senate advanced a bill through the Senate Judiciary Committee that would make it easier for people to buy handguns and carry concealed firearms in more places, including churches and some schools based in houses of worship, The Associated Press reported.
Separate companion bills, HB 49 and HB 50, also advanced through a House judiciary committee. The companion bill would let people with concealed weapons permits carry openly or under clothing while attending religious services at locations where private or charter schools also meet passed by a 77-43 vote.
Knowing that Democrats won’t support legislation making it easier for people to obtain firearms or to allow people to carry concealed weapons to religious services that are held on school property, Senate Republicans attached to their bill a bipartisan provision to start and fund a two-year education effort regarding the safe storage of guns. Free gun locks would be distributed as part of the education campaign.
Democrats faced the prospect of either voting to loosen gun restrictions in order to launch a gun safety campaign, or they could vote against the bill and potentially be painted as anti-gun safety by Republicans, which would be an extremely ironic accusation.
Democrats didn’t take the bait. The bill passed late last week on a 29-19 party-line vote. Republicans used parliamentary maneuvers to block floor votes on several proposed Democratic amendments to tighten gun laws, such as universal background checks for all weapon sales and “red-flag” orders; commonsense proposals that are overwhelmingly approved by North Carolinians.
According to a 2022 poll, 73% of North Carolina voters said it was too easy to get a gun in America and 50% said it was much too easy. That belief was shared even among Republicans (54%), self-described conservatives (52%) and even gun owners (65%).
The same poll showed that 78% of North Carolina voters said they support red flag laws that allow family members or law enforcement to petition a judge to remove guns from someone who poses a violent threat to themselves or others. Just under 60% of North Carolina voters said they strongly support such a proposal. Republicans dismissed the proposed amendment by Democrats.
As for requiring background checks for all gun purchases, another of the Democrats’ proposals that Republicans blocked, 89% of North Carolina voters said they support the requirement with 78% of them strongly supporting it.
Perhaps the most controversial measure Republicans pushed for is one that would toss out the permit that a person must obtain from their county’s sheriff before buying a handgun. Current state law requires county sheriffs to review permit applications and ensure that the gun will be used in a legal manner.
Robeson County Republican Sen. Danny Britt called the repeal of the current pistol permit law a “commonsense” measure. He also said that the current law dates back to the Jim Crow era and is racist, thus it should be repealed.
According to WRAL, Gerald Givens Jr., the president of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP, wasn’t buying Britt’s pitch.
“Please don’t insult our intelligence by saying it’s about race, the reason to pass this bill into law,” he said.
Givens said he supports the current pistol permit law as a way to keep communities safe by making it harder for people who shouldn’t have pistols to obtain them. He mentioned that he has lost multiple family members to gun violence, including a 2-year-old cousin.
According to the AP, several Democrats, including Sens. Natasha Marcus and Mujtaba Mohammed of Mecklenburg County, raised concerns that the bill would create a loophole that could enable criminals, people with mental illnesses and domestic abusers to legally obtain firearms.
Easy access to guns puts women at risk. Women in the United States are 21 times more likely to be killed with a gun than women in other high-income countries. Domestic violence victims are five times more likely to be killed when their abuser has access to a gun.
The House version of the pistol permit repeal closes the domestic abuser loophole, despite opposition from gun-rights advocates. The Senate version does not close the loophole.
As it stands now, we lose too many North Carolinians to the scourge of gun violence every year. On average, 1,470 North Carolinians die by guns every year, or one North Carolinian every six hours.
Republicans have only ensured we have more guns and less accountability for gun owners. There are proven ways to reduce gun violence in communities with commonsense gun laws like universal background checks and prohibiting convicted domestic abusers from obtaining guns – the very policies that Democratic amendments addressed and Republicans blocked.
Republicans have repeatedly dismissed safety concerns and rejected commonsense gun laws because they care more about appeasing their corporate donors than they do about saving lives. Republicans in the State Senate and House have received thousands of dollars from the National Rifle Association.
If we want to keep our children safe, we must do something about guns. Guns are now the leading cause of death for children under the age of 18. Our children are enduring endless and traumatic lockdowns and drills at school, all the while mass shootings are continuing unabated.
In fact, last week, a student at Wendell Middle School brought a gun to school to show to his friends, a 6-year-old at Fairfield Elementary in Rocky Mount had a 9mm handgun in his backpack, a student at Cleveland High School in Clayton was charged with having a 9mm handgun and ammunition in his vehicle at school, a fourth-grade student in Erwin was caught with a loaded gun in his backpack and there were at least two other incidents reported late in the week.
Republicans have repeatedly shown they are focused on the wrong priorities. Instead of helping struggling North Carolinians with the rising cost of living or funding schools for our children, Republicans are intent on making it even easier to obtain a gun – even bypassing commonsense safety precautions supported by a majority of North Carolinians.