Remember to check back tomorrow for Kate's news roundup, ICYMI!
Recent weeks have seen replays of now-common horrific events, from the mass murder at two mosques in New Zealand to the suicides of two young survivors of the Parkland school mass murder and the father of a boy killed at Sandy Hook. The details and motivations behind these and other mass murders differ, but they have one thing in common: guns that were too easily available to individuals who intended to use them to kill people. The government in New Zealand moved quickly to pass stricter gun laws, as did Australia after its first mass murder in 1996. Read how these and other governments have responded to mass murders and increasing gun violence.
As you might guess, our NC legislators are not of one mind on how to increase gun safety and prevent gun violence, with Democrats generally falling on the side of modest restrictions to gun access and Republicans on the side of "more guns make us safer." If you're interested in actual data about gun violence and preventive strategies that have and haven't worked (what a concept!), you'll find a ton of it at Everytown Research, FiveThirtyEight, and Vox. Mass shootings make news, so we often overlook the FACT that 2/3 of gun deaths are suicides.
There's a long list of gun-related bills that have been filed so far this session; the NC Council of Churches has compiled links and information about most of them. Two very different ones were filed around the first anniversary of the Parkland school shootings:
- HB 86, Gun Violence Prevention Act, which would, among other things:
- 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 or stolen 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.
- It's been referred to the House Judiciary Committee; it's not yet appeared on the agenda for discussion.
- HB 61, Omnibus Gun Changes, takes a different approach; it would, among other things:
- Ease restrictions on who can have guns and where they can take them
- Eliminate the current requirement that a person have a permit issued by a sheriff in order to carry a concealed handgun. This now requires completion of an approved course in gun safety that includes instruction regarding state laws about concealed carry and the use of deadly force. The permit and the course would no longer be required.
- Previous bills like this have failed, due in large part to lack of support from sheriffs and law enforcement.
- It's also been referred to the House Judiciary Committee; it's not yet appeared on the agenda for discussion.
- And late-breaking: HB 499 was just filed, another Omnibus Gun Changes bill. It looks even worse than HB 61. (Hat tip to Kelly Garvey for the comparison doc).
In addition to these two major bills and the others listed in the NC Council of Churches link, Rep. Marcia Morey re-introduced a "red flag" bill this week, HB 454, Allow ERPOs to Save Lives and Prevent Suicides. She was joined by students from Lobby for Our Lives NC. These "extreme risk protection order/ERPO" bills have proven effective in several states. They "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 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." House Speaker Moore killed the bill last year; it will take a wave of public and bipartisan legislative support to be considered this year.
What can YOU do?
- Contact your NC legislators to let them know you're one of the majority of Americans who support common-sense gun safety laws such as HB 86, HB 454 and HB 456, which would require a permit for assault weapons and long guns. Include a personal story - are you a gun-owner? Have you been personally or professionally affected by gun violence, including domestic violence or suicide? This is especially important if your House representative is on the Judiciary Committee, which is where many of these bills will first be considered. Pro-tips for emails: use a brief, clear subject line (eg, Support stricter gun safety) and copy the committee chair and Speaker Moore. If you have time, write an actual paper letter and mail it. We've heard from legislators that "real" letters really get their attention.
- Write a letter to the editor of your local or regional newspaper in support of HB 86, HB 454, and HB 456. There's a timeliness here - it's likely they've had a story about what happened in New Zealand, the suicides of the Parkland students, or recently introduced bills at the General Assembly. The League of Women Voters has great tips! Here's why letters to the editor work, it's true at the state as well as national level.
There's no single answer to gun violence and senseless deaths from homicide and suicide, but there ARE steps we can take to make our families, communities and schools safer; we know from data (aka "facts") that more guns and fewer gun laws are NOT the answer.