Church leaders and others in the community concerned about preventing gun violence came together Thursday in Raleigh to talk about, among other things, how to encourage state and federal lawmakers to address the issue following this month’s election.
“Some of the sociologists are telling us we’re about to hit compassion fatigue on this matter, that it’s one more news story. And, people don’t even pay attention anymore,” said Jennifer Copeland, executive director of the North Carolina Council of Churches.
Thursday’s meeting also came weeks after a mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Mark Daughtridge, who attends church at Trinity United Methodist Church in Durham, said following the shootings at churches in Charleston, South Carolina, and in Sutherland Springs, Texas, security became a more significant focus for leaders of his church.
He said it can be a difficult issue as churches seek to strike a balance between being open and welcoming while guarding against potential threats.
“And, we have had to lock our doors during services at times. For some events, we’ve had to have an off-duty officer come and be present,” Daughtridge said. “To live in this constant fear that a shooter could show up at any point is not healthy for us as a society.”
Copeland’s group has advocated for reforms to state and federal firearm regulations.
“We don’t mean repealing the Second Amendment,” she said.
Last March, the state House of Representatives approved a bill that would allow people to carry a concealed weapon at certain churches, citing concerns among some church leaders about security.
Rep. Rena Turner (R-Iredell) sponsored it. It would have allowed someone to carry a concealed weapon at a site where there’s both church services and a school — but only during hours when school is not in session.
“We live in a different world these days, and these people didn’t want to be prevented from protecting themselves,” Turner said.
The Senate did not take up the bill.
In this month’s election, Republicans retained control of the state legislature but lost their veto-proof supermajority. Copeland says she wants to meet with legislative leaders to talk about where there may be areas to compromise to address gun violence.
“If we can begin to talk about this is what’s important, here’s where we can get traction, these are the people who are empathetic to the issues, then we might begin to move the ball a little further up the field,” she said.