Commentary

Absurd takes from Berger and Forest on the courts and the Constitution

Republican legislative leaders continue to scramble to distract attention from the fact that the U.S Supreme Court, with a Republican majority that includes President Trump’s appointee, unanimously ruled that they violated the constitution by racially gerrymandering state legislative districts.

Thursday, they not only refused a call by Governor Roy Cooper to convene a special session to draw new districts to replace the ones the court threw out, they feigned outrage that he would suggest it.

Never mind that the court ruling means that the General Assembly is conducting business representing districts that violate the constitution or that the voters of the state, and potential candidates, deserve to know what the new districts look like as soon as possible.

Legislative leaders instead mounted an all-out rhetorical attack on Gov. Cooper for suggesting that they abide by the court’s ruling and draw new and legal districts.

There were dozens of ridiculous claims made, but statements by Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest were the most absurd.  Berger told the Associated Press that he didn’t make the decision lightly to refuse Cooper’s call of a special session and added this gem.

We need to be serious about what the Constitution requires.

The U.S. Supreme Court says the Constitution requires legislative districts that aren’t racially gerrymandered. Maybe Berger should try that—if he wants to be serious.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest released a slick video  (who paid for that you have to wonder) as part of his ongoing campaign for governor in 2020 because he thought the public “might want to know why” he ruled Cooper’s request for a special session unconstitutional.

He ends the well-lit appearance with this deep philosophical thought.

Be reminded, what the progressive movement cannot attain at the ballot box, they are attempting to attain from the courts

Thanks for the reminder. But that’s an odd thing to say about a ruling from the conservative U.S. Supreme Court that Republicans violated the constitution to stay in power with their racial gerrymandering.

It might lead some folks to think that it is actually Republicans in North Carolina who are trying to thwart the will of the people at the ballot box by violating the Constitution they have sworn to uphold.

 

Commentary

House bill to weaken gun laws passes without veto proof majority

The proposal to allow people as young as 18 to carry loaded hidden handguns without the background checks and training that the current permitting system provides passed 2nd reading in the House Wednesday.

That is the bad news.

But the vote was 65-54 with eight Republicans voting against it. That is short of a veto proof majority.

Unless  a few more Republicans come to their senses soon, the bill will pass its final vote in the House today and head to the Senate, where it’s also expected to receive a warm reception.

But Gov. Roy Cooper might be able to stop this madness with a veto if the Republicans who wisely voted against the proposal Wednesday stick to their principles.

Becky Ceartas of North Carolinians Against Gun  Violence summed up the reasons why that is so important in a statement after the vote.

We are incredibly disappointed that lawmakers in Raleigh voted to water down the concealed carry weapons permitting system. The changes that they made essentially do away with the key components of the concealed carry weapons permitting system.

The concealed carry weapons permitting system ensures that 18 year olds cannot buy a gun and requires eight hours of classroom and live fire training. Without these classes, the public cannot be certain that a gun owner is knowledgeable of the rules and laws of carrying a hidden loaded weapon in public.

Commentary

Best argument against latest gun bill is from pro-gun groups four years ago

The House is set to vote today on legislation that would weaken gun laws in North Carolina again by ending the requirement that people have to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

The permit process includes an application to the local sheriff’s office, which runs a background check and makes sure there are no documented mental health problems. Applicants must be at least 21 and also attend an eight-hour gun safety class.

Under the proposal before the House, the permit requirement would be abolished and the minimum age of people allowed to carry a hidden, loaded handgun would be lowered to 18.

Law enforcement officials are speaking out against the plan and more than 80 percent of voters in the state oppose it.

But the best argument against allowing anyone 18 and older to carry a concealed weapon anywhere they want might be the promises from the pro-gun crowd a few years ago when they were pushing legislation to allow hidden handguns in bars and restaurants and playgrounds.

Here’s then Senator Thom Goolsby, now a member of the UNC Board of Governors, in a WRAL-TV story from the 2013 debate, defending expanding the number of places where concealed weapons  were allowed.

In the Senate, backers of the bill said that the expansion of rights for concealed handgun permit holders was appropriate. Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, noted that those who obtain such permits go through extra training and background checks. “They’re the people we don’t have to worry about,” he said.

A story in the Indy Week a few months later about the efforts of Grass Roots North Carolina to convince bars to allow concealed weapons in their establishments quoted from a card the group was handing out.

You have nothing to fear from concealed handgun permit holders, who by virtue of training and background checks, have proven themselves sane, sober and law-abiding, the GRNC card reads.

Just four years ago, the pro-gun activists were reassuring everybody that it was safe to allow people to carry their hidden and loaded handguns everywhere because they were trained and had undergone thorough, local background checks as part of the permitting process.

Now those same pro-gun forces are demanding an end to that process and the very safeguards they promised it would provide.

Uncategorized

More than 80 percent of NC voters do not want gun laws weakened

The overwhelming majority of North Carolina voters do not support legislation making its way through the General Assembly that would abolish the requirement to get a permit to carry a concealed handgun.

The News & Observer reports that two separate polls find that over 80 percent of voters oppose the proposal that would also allow 18-year-olds to carry a loaded, hidden handgun.

Currently you have to be 21 to apply for a permit.

Many law enforcement officials are also opposed to the idea of making it easier to buy a handgun, including Guilford County Sheriff B.J. Barnes.

The House is likely to vote on the bill this week, when we will find out if they are listening to their constituents or the gun lobbyists–which seem to have a different view than most gun owners, including a former Marine quoted in the News & Observer story.

John “Curly” Brazelton of Havelock, a former Marine who belongs to a hunting club, said in an interview with The N&O last week that everyone in his hunting club opposes the idea of eliminating concealed-carry permits.

“We all have them,” Brazelton said. “We have the best law in the country right now.”

 

Commentary

GOPers bizarrely celebrate Supreme Court decision confirming they violated the Constitution

Raleigh is still buzzing about the unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold a lower court’s ruling and affirm that the racially gerrymandered General Assembly districts drawn by Republican legislative leaders violated the Constitution.

The court did not agree with the lower court ruling that the state should hold special legislative elections in 2017 under new districts, but that is still possibility. The remedy to address the unconstitutional districts will be decided by a lower court.

Not long after the news of the ruling broke, NC GOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse tweeted that “Supreme Court Issues Brutal Takedown of 4th Circuit Call for Special Elections.”

Two key Republican legislators involved in redistricting issues, Rep. David Lewis and Sen. Ralph Hise, issued an equally bewildering statement.

We are encouraged the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the lower court’s politically motivated attempt to force a special legislative election in 2017 and its efforts to ‘suspend provisions of the North Carolina Constitution,’ ignore voters’ constitutional right to elect representatives to two-year terms, and effectively nullify their votes from 2016.

They are encouraged that the U.S. Supreme Court with a Republican majority unanimously decided that they violated the constitution by illegally using race to draw legislative districts? That’s something to proud of?

The big question now is what the courts will do to address the illegal gerrymandering, decide that voters have been represented long enough by lawmakers elected in unconstitutional districts and order a special election in 2017 or wait until 2018 and allow more laws to be made by legislators elected in illegal districts?

Perhaps the courts should follow the advice of GOP lawyer Thomas Farr.  Farr argued in December that the Supreme Court should overrule the lower court ruling that called for 2017 elections.

But 15 years ago he was on the other side, urging the state Supreme Court to dramatically change the election schedule for the General Assembly because he said—as the Southern Coalition for Social Justice points out—“it was paramount to correct the irreparable harm that flowed to plaintiffs in that case from being in districts that violated the state constitution.”

Correcting the irreparable harm was paramount then and it is paramount now. And that would be something to celebrate.