We must reverse the dramatic increase of gun violence in America. Specific and urgent changes must be made in our Federal and State laws. In 2016 alone, more than 1,400 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 over the prior year. When the pandemic hit, gun purchases soared and gun violence rose sharply again, by about 30% nationally. In NC, the rate of gun deaths increased 35% from 2011 to 2020, with gun suicide increasing 8% and gun homicide increasing by a shocking 88%. In an average year, 1,470 people die by guns in NC, including 123 children. NC's rate of death by gun is higher than the national average.*
The data isn't in yet for 2021 and 2022, but we don't expect good news.
As the parent of children who attended public schools and the mother of an elementary school teacher, I feel strongly that we should 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 schools, concerts, movie theaters, clubs, grocery stores and churches, often with legally-purchased military style weapons, have made clear the necessity of common sense gun reforms.
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 emphasis 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:
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 by filing bills which would have enacted many of the safety measures in the Governor’s proposal plus:
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.
* For more statistics on gun violence, see EveryStat.org.
** 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.