RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Following recent shootings and other gun-related incidents at North Carolina schools, Democrats said Thursday they will file petitions next week to try to bring two bills up for votes that Republicans have not acted on during the legislative session.
“We don’t have all the answers yet. But, we can’t afford just more platitudes. Thoughts and prayers don’t change what’s already happened,” said Rep. Julie von Haefen (D-Wake County).
Rep. von Haefen was joined by other Democratic state representatives and groups calling for various reforms to gun laws.
The first would establish extreme risk protection orders, also knows as a red flag law, where a judge could temporarily order someone’s guns be taken if they’re deemed to be a threat to themselves or others.
Rep. Marcia Morey (D-Durham), a former judge, said she remembered cases where people would say they were worried violence would occur but there was nothing in state law to prevent it.
“What we’re asking for is a balance. As guns proliferate, we have to have commonsense gun safety laws. And, if we don’t more people will be murdered. More people will commit suicide by firearms,” said Rep. Morey.
The second bill would require a permit for the purchase of a long gun, defined as a shotgun or rifle that’s not considered an antique firearm.
The representatives mentioned the deadly shooting of a student last week at Mt. Tabor High School in Winston-Salem. Two days before that, a teen in Wilmington was arrested for shooting a student at New Hanover High School. The victim in that shooting survived.
“We know that these two bills in particular may not have solved the issues that happened, but the fact is we’re not having any conversations in this building about what to do to prevent those incidents from happening,” said Rep. von Haefen.
Democrats will file discharge petitions next Wednesday, the next day the House is in session. If a majority of members, which is 61, sign the petitions, then the bills would be removed from the committees where they’ve been sitting and placed on the House calendar the next legislative day as a special order of business.
They said efforts like that have never worked in the past.
“The fact that it’s never been successful in the General Assembly says something about our process, that things that the leadership doesn’t want to be heard can basically be stuffed away,” said Rep. von Haefen.
Republicans have pursued bills this session aimed at making it easier for people to purchase guns, including a bill to repeal the state’s pistol purchase permit law.
The North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association backed the bill, saying the existing permitting system is “duplicative” because of improvements to the national background check system.
“We’re essentially following what the sheriffs have recommended. The fact is this law is archaic and needs to be repealed,” said Paul Valone, president of Grass Roots North Carolina, which advocates for Second Amendment rights. “What we should be doing is working to reduce all violence. And, the best way to reduce violence is to make sure that people have the opportunity to protect themselves.”
Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the bill, saying, “Gun permit laws reduce gun homicides and suicides and reduce the availability of guns for criminal activity. At a time of rising gun violence, we cannot afford to repeal a system that works to save lives. The legislature should focus on combating gun violence instead of making it easier for guns to end up in the wrong hands.”
Valone’s group has opposed bills similar to the ones Democrats introduced this year.
“The gun control movement is trying to exploit tragedy by pushing for gun control that has absolutely nothing to do with the crimes that have occurred,” he said.
Rep. Allison Dahle (D-Wake County), who described herself as a “proud gun owner,” said she opposed repealing the pistol purchase permit law.
“I get so worked up on this because it’s just not a hard process,” she said. “With gun ownership comes responsibility. With that responsibility comes accountability.”