Source: The News & Observer
North Carolina Democrats are furious after House Speaker Tim Moore and his fellow Republicans continued their assault on democracy and fairness by denying them the opportunity to submit amendments to a controversial gun bill earlier this month, The News & Observer reported.
Senate Bill 41, also known as “Guarantee 2nd Amend. Freedom and Protections,” passed the House by a 70-44 vote and was sent to Gov. Roy Cooper. The governor vetoed SB 41 shortly after it arrived on his desk.
The governor released a statement explaining his decision:
“Eliminating strong background checks will allow more domestic abusers and other dangerous people to own handguns and reduces law enforcement’s ability to stop them from committing violent crimes. Second Amendment supporting, responsible gun owners know this will put families and communities at risk.”
Cooper had vetoed two of the proposals in the bill in previous years’ sessions, including perhaps the most controversial one, the repeal of the handgun permit requirement. Republicans in the legislature will now have the opportunity to override Cooper’s veto.
In addition to the permit repeal, the legislation also allows people attending religious services at places of worship that also serve as schools, or have attached schools, to carry concealed weapons. The bill will also create a two-year statewide awareness program to promote safe gun storage.
The proposals were originally three separate bills but were combined into a single bill before it advanced on the Senate floor in February.
One Republican, Rep. Jeff McNeely, called SB 41 “a great bill,” but gun safety advocates and organizers have said they are “appalled” by the legislation.
North Carolinians Against Gun Violence (NCGV) and A Better Chance A Better Community (ABC2) held a virtual press event in February where eight panelists spoke about why they oppose the laws passed by Republicans.
“The pistol purchase and permitting system is saving lives throughout North Carolina by preventing homicides that disproportionately affect people of color,” Chester B. Williams, chief empowerment officer at ABC2, said.
If the state’s pistol permit repeal becomes law, federal background checks would still be required when a firearm is purchased from a federally licensed dealer. Repealing the law will also create a loophole for private sales, which are currently covered by the pistol permit law.
Panelists said the federal background check isn’t enough to curb gun violence. 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, more 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.
Republicans were not convinced despite the well-reasoned arguments against SB 41. Before passing the bill in the House, Republican Rep. Destin Hall used a procedure to end debate, stop Democrats from proposing any amendments and immediately call for a vote.
The move was not particularly surprising because Republicans in the Senate 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.
Under House rules, Democratic House minority leader Rep. Robert Reives was given three minutes to address the chamber. He used his time to express his displeasure over the Republicans’ move to stop debate.
“I would concur that we’re getting to an uncomfortable point,” Reives said. “And I hope folks recognize, at some level, there’s got to be recognition there are other people in the room. And we can choose not to, don’t have to, because under our North Carolina statutes, if you’re in the front of this body, you can do whatever the heck you want. But I think it would be good, going forward, for us to really have conversations about getting heard.”
Reives also addressed Democrats, telling them that he understands everyone’s frustration but rules are rules and it’s important for the public to know that Democrats did what they could within the rules of the House.
“I know you’re mad as hell, but these are the rules,” Reives said. “I just want to make sure that we were clear on that, and I want to be clear publicly, so there’s no discussion later about any confusion about what did or didn’t happen, or what we did or did not try.”
Explaining why he decided not to allow Democrats to submit any amendments, Moore showed his lack of concern for the potentially deadly outcomes of the legislation by saying he made his decision – before the vote was held – in the interest of time, according to The N&O.
“[W]hat we did was we saved the body probably an extra hour of time dealing with amendments that ultimately would not have been adopted.”
The amendments, proposed by Reps. John Autry, Deb Butler, Joe John and Marcia Morey, proposed adding specific (and popular) measures that Democrats have long pushed to enact, including universal background checks and a red flag law, which Morey has proposed as standalone legislation several times including earlier this month, The N&O reported.
Republicans in the legislature continue to show they’re only concerned with what they think is best for themselves and not their constituents, North Carolinians as a whole, and certainly, not anyone with differing views on these important issues.