Source: News & Observer
Gun safety advocates and organizers have said they are “appalled” at gun legislation that has already passed through several committees in both chambers of the North Carolina legislature, The News & Observer reported.
In February, Republicans in the Senate passed Senate Bill 41 – legislation that would make obtaining a handgun easier and also allow concealed carry in religious institutions – on a 29-19 party-line vote. Republicans used parliamentary maneuvers to block floor votes on multiple proposed Democratic amendments calling for laws such as universal background checks for all weapon sales and “red flag” orders.
The House passed House Bills 49 and 50 through their judiciary committee. House Bill 50, which throws out the state’s pistol permit requirements, passed the full House with all Democrats in opposition. House Bill 49 allows those with concealed carry licenses to carry their weapons into religious institutions and religious schools.
Republicans have proposed similar legislation within the last year, but Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the measures.
North Carolinians Against Gun Violence (NCGV) and A Better Chance A Better Community (ABC2) held a virtual press event on Feb. 20 where eight panelists spoke about why they oppose the laws passed by Republicans.
Multiple panelists, many of whom were people of color, spoke out against Republican lawmakers’ claims that the pistol permit law currently on the books in North Carolina is racist and rooted in Jim Crow-era policies. The rhetoric about racist gun laws came from Robeson County Republican Sen. Danny Britt, a primary sponsor of SB 41. Britt said that the permit law, which requires anyone buying a handgun to get a permit from their local sheriff’s office “should have been done away with a very long time ago.”
“This act is a disregard to community safety and has nothing to do with racial equity,” Chester B. Williams, chief empowerment officer at ABC2, said. “I’m appalled that there are lawmakers using this rhetoric to say otherwise.”
According to a report published by NCGV, Black, non-Hispanic North Carolinians accounted for 67% of homicide victims in the state in 2018, despite making up a smaller proportion of the state’s population.
“The pistol purchase and permitting system is saving lives throughout North Carolina by preventing homicides that disproportionately affect people of color,” Williams said.
If the state’s pistol permit law is repealed, federal background checks would still be required when a firearm is purchased from a federally licensed dealer.
Panelists said the federal background check isn’t enough to curb gun violence. In defense of their position, panelists cited a 2020 American Journal of Public Health study that found gun purchaser licensing laws and comprehensive background check requirements “were consistently associated with lower firearm homicide and suicide rates.” States just requiring background checks and no permit laws were not found to have the same positive outcomes.
“Why on earth would you choose to repeal one of the life-saving laws that we have, that has been proven to prevent gun violence at a time when gun-related deaths are at an all-time high?” said Becky Ceartas, executive director of NCGV.
The answer to that question, according to Britt and other supporters? Because the current system creates unnecessary burdens within the gun-buying process. Such a view makes it extremely clear that Republicans are only focused on these issues because they want North Carolinians to have even easier access to deadly firearms – something that polling shows North Carolina voters don’t believe or agree with.
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 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. When it comes to requiring background checks for all gun purchases, 89% of North Carolina voters said they support the requirement, with 78% of them strongly supporting it.