RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Gov. Roy Cooper used part of his final State of the State address to ask lawmakers to work with him to reduce gun violence.
In making his case to find ways to protect everyone from law enforcement officers to ordinary citizens, Cooper brought up a couple of statistics related to guns and children to emphasize his point.
How accurate were they?
THE CLAIM: Cooper said children in North Carolina “were 51 percent more likely to die from gun violence than children in the U.S. as a whole,” and that “death by gunfire has surpassed car accidents as the No. 1 cause of injury deaths for children.”
THE FACTS: Both claims check out.
They comes from the North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force report released late last month that breaks down the data through 2021.
For the first claim, the report found a firearm-related death rate of 5.3 for every 100,000 people under 18 in North Carolina that year. That’s 51 percent higher than the national rate of 3.5.
It was the second straight year when that rate in North Carolina was way above what it was nationally. The state rate of 4.7 in 2020 was nearly 52 percent higher than the national rate of 3.1.
From 2012-19, those rates mostly tracked together.
The second claim relates to another chart in the report that breaks down causes of death in 2020.
It shows 120 deaths by gunfire — 73 homicides, 36 deaths by suicide and 11 accidental, or unintentional, deaths — among those under 18.
There were 104 motor vehicle deaths and 103 other types of accidental injury deaths.
The governor said he supports responsible gun ownership under the Second Amendment, said he cannot accept those child deaths and urged lawmakers at the General Assembly to “move forward to fight gun violence, not backward.”
He pushed for background checks, red flag laws and responsible firearm ownership in a speech to a gun safety group last November, just weeks after the issue squarely hit home when a mass shooting took place in Raleigh.
But that raises a question: Realistically, what can he do?
Term limits have rendered him a lame duck, and this was his last State of the State address. Republicans have a veto-proof supermajority in the Senate and need only one Democrat to cross the aisle for one in the House.
Just last month, the House passed the Firearms Liberty Act, which would allow people to carry concealed weapons to church services held on school grounds. Two years ago, Cooper vetoed a similar bill.
Mac McCorkle, a former Democratic strategist and professor of the practice at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, said the idea of Cooper getting the General Assembly to pass his own gun legislation was “very dubious.”
“There might be certain executive actions he can take, but it was really about the bully pulpit and maybe setting things up” if a Democrat is elected next year to succeed him, McCorkle said.
McCorkle says it was not an accident that the gun-related numbers Cooper brought up had to do with children.
“Cooper was trying to bend over backwards, saying, ‘Let’s focus on children and gun problems. Let’s focus on that,’” McCorkle said. “And (Cooper is) a believer in the Second Amendment. This is not a woke, liberal viewpoint. I don’t know that that’ll get him anywhere, but I think he was at least trying to position that issue for the future for Democrats, which is a hard sell in North Carolina.”