Gun Violence

We must reverse the dramatic increase of gun violence in America.  Specific and urgent changes need to be made in our Federal and State laws. In 2016 alone, more than one thousand four hundred men, women and children died in North Carolina from gun violence. That was the highest number in over 35 years and it was a 27% increase since 2015.  

As the parent of children who attended public schools and the daughter of an elementary school teacher, it is critical to ensure the safety of our children and their teachers while at school, where they should be learning not fearing for their lives. The frequent shootings at concerts, movie theaters, clubs, churches and schools, often with legally-purchased military style weapons, have made clear the necessity of common sense gun regulations. 

We need universal, accurate background checks on all gun purchases to keep guns away from criminals, domestic abusers and other dangerous people. We need a national ban on assault weapons, so that weapons designed for the military are not in the hands of deranged attackers, who can overpower law enforcement and kill multiple victims in seconds. Until there is a ban, people under the age of 21 should not be able to purchase military-style weapons. We also need research about gun violence, to find evidence-based solutions to the problem.  We need more emphsis on safe storage of weapons, especially since 80% of school shooters are minors who use a gun they take from home. 

These common-sense ideas are supported by a large majority of Americans, including a majority of gun owners, and recommended by various law enforcement agencies. Nevertheless, the National Rifle Association has hamstrung our democracy by threatening to unseat any politician who supports even the most modest gun safety measures. If Congress won’t act, it’s up to us in the NCGA to take the lead.  We can’t let NRA-backed politicians take away our safety and our common sense.

At the state level, I support Governor Cooper’s plan to reduce gun violence by:

  • Enacting extreme risk protection orders to empower people to ask the courts to take guns temporarily from an individual who is a danger to themselves or the community (also known as red flag laws).
  • Strengthening the background check system by closing the loophole that allows people to purchase military style assault weapons without a background check or permit.
  • Banning bump stocks, which turn semi-automatic guns into fully automatic weapons.
  • Raising the legal age of sale of military style weapons to 21 and requiring anyone buying them — at a store, online, or at a gun show — to go through the same background check and permitting process as they would for a handgun.
  • Ensure all critical information is shared with the databases used for federal background checks.
  • Improving diagnosis and treatment of people with mental illness, especially those who might turn violent, by making mental health care more accessible by closing our health care coverage gap by accepting federal funds that are offered to us to cover 500,000 more North Carolinians.
  • Increasing the number of school personnel who receive youth and adult mental health first aid training, which covers common mental health challenges that young people face and provides guidance for how to help them in both crisis and non-crisis situations, and expanding funding for school counselors and psychologists*.

In addition, members of my party in the NC General Assembly have attempted on several occasions to beef up North Carolina’s gun safety laws, most recently by introducing the Gun Safety Act in 2017 and the Gun Violence Prevention Act in 2019, which would have enacted many of the safety measures in the Governor’s proposal plus:

  • Required safe storage of firearms to keep them away from minors and prohibited persons.
  • Required timely reporting of lost or stolen firearms.
  • Required gun owners to carry liability insurance.
  • Required more thorough review of law officer-involved deaths.
  • Prohibited large capacity magazines acquired after a certain date.
  • Requiring a permit to purchase an assault rifle or a long gun.
  • Allow the destruction of seized firearms.

But let’s face reality: These common-sense, pro-safety improvements have no chance at all in the GOP-controlled NCGA. The Raleigh Republicans never even allow such ideas to be debated.  These reasonable, worthwhile proposals should be discussed and debated, instead of ignored while gun deaths continue to rise.

I understand the passion hunters and range shooters have for their sport and know that the vast majority of gun owners obey the law and are no threat to others. I will not vote to limit those freedoms. I also understand that the NRA does some useful gun safety education. But that does not excuse its steadfast refusal to consider virtually every form of gun safety regulation, no matter how popular with the American public. As a North Carolina Senator, I support legislation that protects the rights of lawful gun owners and I am a passionate advocate for common sense legislation to reduce gun violence and deaths, including accidental, intentional and by suicide.  I will never accept money from the gun lobbies and I am proud to have earned the endorsement of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense and Everytown for Gun Safety. It’s time that we have laws and provisions about gun violence that can make a difference in our community.  

* North Carolina employs just one school psychologist for every 2,000 students vs. the national average of one psychologist for every 700 students. North Carolina has just one school counselor for every 375 students vs. the national average of one for every 250 students.