A year has passed since the Parkland shooting and, in some ways, we find ourselves in the same situation. School shootings have continued even here in North Carolina, including one in Winston-Salem and another in Matthews, NC late last year. In March alone of this year, two Parkland survivors and a Sandy Hook parent have died by apparent suicide; a NC woman was murdered over a minor traffic accident, with her young children in the car; and a 21- day-old baby was accidentally killed by an unrelated juvenile who shot through the window. In all, over 200 minors have been shot and killed in North Carolina since 2014.
Change has been a long time – too long – in coming, but there has been some progress which is keeping the the gun reform conversation going. In 2018, federal law finally allowed the Center for Disease Control to begin studying gun violence, something Congressman David Price has been advocating for over 20 years. In February of this year, Congress passed a universal background checks bill at the federal level. The Parkland teenagers and groups like Moms Demand Action have been persistent in elevating the conversation, using the tools of social media like never before, and utilizing the organizational movement lessons of grassroots over the past decades to mobilize. The number of town halls, marches, and vigils have all increased, and helped raise awareness and force a continual conversation. We’re far from agreeing, but legislators are beginning to listen.
When Pat McCrory was governor, H562 passed into law August 2015, which removed law enforcement discretion (as most states have) in denying or approving a National Firearms (NFA) permit for highly dangerous weapons. Instead, H562 required sheriffs to approve those NFA permit applications as long as the person meets all the guidelines, such that someone without a prior conviction can obtain a NFA despite being a known gang member.
NC law currently allows:
- Magazines of any size
- Dangerous weapons (machine guns, silencers/suppressors, unlimited magazines, etc) to those without prior convictions
- Reciprocal carry and conceal
- Guns on school grounds
- Those who are mentally ill or threatening to themselves or others to keep and purchase guns
Legislation Up for Debate Now
The NCGA has been busy this session with gun reform bills, but you’ll notice a big difference in the types of laws being proposed, unfortunately, along party lines.
Pro-Gun Deregulation Bills
H61 Omnibus Gun Changes Bill
This bill would dismantle background checks and North Carolina’s concealed handgun permitting system, making it easy for violent criminals, stalkers, teenagers, and people with no firearms safety training to carry hidden loaded handguns. A similar bill, H746 was defeated, although its contents have been rolled into H61 now known as the Omnibus Gun Changes bill, under mostly the same sponsors including Reps Pittman and Speciale. Speciale just sponsored another Omnibus Gun bill H499 that appears to be nearly identical but perhaps even more far reaching.
S192 School Security Act of 2019
Reps Daniel, Tillman and Hise have sponsored a bill that would pay teachers more if they carry guns to school. By becoming ‘resource officers,” teachers would take on additional duties, carry a gun while teaching, be allowed to pursue suspects and students beyond school limits, and not be held liable for consequences or damages resulting from the use of those guns. Further, the teachers’ names would be confidential so that parents cannot check if their child’s teacher has a weapon at school.
Gun Safety Reform Bills
HB86 Gun Violence Prevention Act
- Allow cities and counties to establish their own rules on where guns are permitted.
- Require gun owners to carry liability insurance.
- Require gun owners to report a lost of stole weapon to law enforcement within 48 hours.
- Allow law enforcement to destroy firearms they seize.
- Make it a misdemeanor to fail to store a firearm in a secure, locked container when not in use.
H139 Youth Gun Violence Study Commission
This bill would:
- Allow a commission to study the availability of guns to juveniles.
- Study the incidence of gun violence among juveniles in North Carolina.
- Study programs in other states that have show successful outcomes in educating juveniles about the dangers of guns and the feasibility of implementing those programs in North Carolina.
- Look at handgun buyback programs in other states and the possibility of implementing such a program in North Carolina.
- Study the possibility of implementing youth mentoring programs that aim to reduce the gun violence among juveniles.
H454 Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO)
Though the bill was killed last year, it was just reintroduced by Rep. Marcia Morey, with broad democratic co-sponsorship. ERPO, or “red flag” laws, “provide a means for getting firearms out of the hands of people who pose a threat to themselves or others. With this law, family members and law enforcement officers can report first-hand knowledge of warning signs and petition a court for an ERPO, a temporary revocation of a person’s firearm(s). The gun owner will appear in court within 10 days for a decision on the duration of their ERPO — guns may be returned, or revoked for up to a year.” (NC Policy Watch)
H456 “An act to require a permit for the purchase of an assault weapon or 3 long gun”
This bill, with Reps. Morey, and Harrison as primary sponsors, along with another dozen co-sponsors, would require permits to purchase “Assault Weapons”. Assault Weapons are defined, in detail, by make and model within the bill to clarify and remove any ambiguity on the types covered. This would increase the scrutiny on permitting, and hopefully the tracking of weapons as well.
What You Can Do
Keep in mind the highly-respected Quinnipiac University Poll reported on February 20, 2018 that Americans support universal background checks for all gun purchases by 97-to-2 percent, a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons by 67-to-29 percent, and a mandatory waiting period for all gun purchases by 83-to-14 percent. We can hold our legislators accountable for taking the steps most of their constituents want towards Common Sense Gun Reforms.
- OPPOSE bills like H61 and S192
- SUPPORT bills like the four above that:
- Allow law enforcement, families and care professions to petition the courts to temporarily remove weapons from those who pose a danger to themselves or others.
- Strengthen the law for safe storage of firearms
- Amend interstate reciprocity for concealed handgun permits.
- Improve data sharing with the National Background Check System
- Require gun owners to obtain liability insurance
- Limit the size of ammo magazines