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092210_1218_Soberinggun1.jpgIt’s a sad commentary that such action would even be necessary, but the folks at North Carolinians Against Gun Violence have launched a petition in which they call on caring and thinking people to join them in opposing legislation that would force deadly weapons into even more hands and safe places than they’re already allowed in our gun-crazy state.

Here’s the text:

Dear North Carolina General Assembly and Governor,

The undersigned North Carolinians voice their strong opposition to provisions in HB 562 that put residents of our our state in grave danger by expanding the kinds of places where guns are allowed and removing the pistol permitting system.

The pistol permitting system has been North Carolina’s solution to a federal exemption that allows private dealers to sell a gun without performing a background check. We are one of 17 states that have require all dealers, including private ones, to perform a background check. In states like ours that require background checks for private handgun sales:

  • 46 percent fewer women are shot to death by their intimate partners
  • There are 48 percent fewer firearm suicides, while the rates of suicide methods are nearly identical
  • There are 17 percent fewer firearm aggravated assaults
  • 48 percent fewer law enforcement are shot to death with handguns

By eliminating this successful permitting system, requiring arduous requirements for gun free signs, requiring employers to allow employees to secure a handgun in their vehicle at work, allowing concealed carry by people who are in locked cars at schools, and allowing guns at the N.C. State Fair everywhere but on rides, this bill makes our state less safe for all of us.

We urge you to oppose these provisions.

Sincerely,

Click here to learn more.

Commentary

Thom Tillis 2The Fayetteville Observer has an interesting story today that seems to indicate that Senator Thom Tillis has brought a bit of his special brand of “that was then, this is now” governance to Washington.

According to the Observer, Tillis is speaking out vigorously against proposals to close the Air Force’s 440th Airlift Wing. While this kind of turf protection is probably to be expected from any politician, two things are rather striking about the story:

#1 – Tillis speaks out strongly in the story against federal “sequestration” cuts — i.e. the spending cuts that his fellow conservatives imposed on all kinds of essential public services and the country at-large a few years back. “Sequestration is a great threat to our readiness, to our capabilities,” the Senator said.

And wasn’t it Tillis who forever lectured us during his tenure as State House Speaker about the vast quantity of waste, fraud and abuse in government and how we needed to slash public spending to create jobs? Now, apparently, he sees the wisdom of public spending to create jobs.

#2 – Tillis went to Washington promising to help end the gridlock in Congress. But according to the story, the senator has announced that he will place a “hold” on all civilian appointments within the Department of Defense and the Department of the Air Force until he “get some answers” as to why the Air Force is closing the wing. Guess this goes to show that there is “that was then” gridlock and “this is now” gridlock.

Commentary

Loan sharksState lawmakers have been taking a spring break this week and given the flood of disturbing bills introduced of late, it’s enough to make you wish they’d just stay away. Two new anti-consumer bills pushed by predatory industries make for classic cases in point.

As is detailed on the main NC Policy Watch site this morning by veteran bankruptcy attorney William Brewer, Number One is the proposal to introduce wage garnishment in North Carolina for general debts like credit card bills. As Brewer explains, this proposal would end a nearly 150 year-old rule in North Carolina that general creditors cannot seize money from people that is necessary to support their families.  It would also unleash a a bevy of predatory national profiteers that buy up old consumer debt for pennies on the dollar and, perhaps most disturbingly, spark a wave of bankruptcies. Here’s Brewer:

“As practical matter, the only refuge for such an unfortunate wage earner will be to file bankruptcy. But here’s the rest of the story: North Carolina has one of the lowest bankruptcy filing rates in the nation. For the first quarter of 2014, the national average for bankruptcies was 3.23 for every 1,000 people. North Carolina ranked 40th among the states with a rate of 1.82.

By contrast, the rates in our sister states in the southeast that allow with wage garnishment along the lines of Senator Brock’s proposal are the highest in the nation. Tennessee is first with a rate that’s 350% of North Carolina’s. Georgia and Alabama are second and third with three times the North Carolina rate. Virginia has a rate 70% higher than North Carolina. South Carolina, which has no wage garnishment, has a filing rate 13% lower.

The conclusion from all this is inescapable: if the General Assembly and Gov. McCrory enact a law that dramatically expands wage garnishment in our state, bankruptcy filings will soar by 200-300%.”

Sadly. debt buyer lobbyists aren’t the only ones pushing lawmakers to soak struggling consumers. The high-interest finance companies are back with yet another bill to jack up rates on small consumer loans — i.e. the ones they succeeded in raising just a couple years ago.

As Raleigh’s News & Observer explains this morning, the new bill would send effective interest rates on these loans into the stratosphere: Read More

Commentary

Rev. William Barber and North Carolina Christian writer Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove recently authored the following essay on the close connection between modern “religious freedom” proposals and the dark history of racial discrimination in the U.S.  We’re delighted to publish it here.

Extremists also remember Selma:
The ugly history behind “religious freedom” laws

By Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

From Ava Duvernay’s award-winning film to President Obama’s speech at the Edmond Pettus Bridge, to the thousands we crossed the Bridge with and the millions that joined by TV, America has remembered Selma this year. We have honored grassroots leaders who organized for years, acknowledged the sacrifices of civil rights workers, and celebrated the great achievement of the Voting Rights Act. At the same time, we have recalled the hatred and fear of white supremacy in 1960’s Alabama. But we may not have looked closely enough at this ugly history. Even as we celebrate one of America’s great strides toward freedom, the ugliest ghosts of our past haunt us in today’s “religious freedom” laws.

Many able commentators have pointed out the problem with laws which purport to protect a First Amendment right to religious freedom by creating an opportunity to violate another’s 14th Amendment right to equal protection under the law. But little attention has been paid to the struggle out of which the 14th Amendment was born—a struggle which continued to play out in Selma 50 years ago and is very much alive in America’s state houses today. We cannot understand the new “religious freedom” law in Indiana and others like it apart from the highly sexualized backlash against America’s first two Reconstructions.

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was part and parcel of America’s first Reconstruction, guaranteeing for the first time that people who had been legally codified as three-fifths persons would enjoy equal protection under the law in this country. The very notion of equal protection for black Americans was so offensive that it inspired an immediate backlash. Two features of resistance to America’s first Reconstruction are essential to note.

First, it was deeply religious. White preachers led the charge, calling themselves “Redeemers” and framing equal justice for black Americans as a moral danger. At the same time, the threat was explicitly sexualized. Black men were portrayed in respectable newspapers as “ravishing beasts,” eager to rape white women.

Here in our native North Carolina, white vigilantes were armed and encouraged to defend their women, leading to the “Wilmington Race Riot” of 1898. Violent demonstrations of white men’s sexual fear led to lynchings throughout the South and Midwest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Ida B. Wells, the courageous African-American journalist from Memphis, did the dangerous investigative work to show that the great majority of these lynchings were not about sex but political power.

When the Civil Rights Movement—a Second Reconstruction—was finally able to draw national attention to the vicious patterns of Jim Crow in the 1960’s, the challenge to white power was again conflated with sexual fear. As Danielle McGuire has chronicled in her book “The Dark End of the Street,” civil rights workers were consistently accused of wanting interracial sex and/or having homosexual tendencies.  Read More

Commentary

Women’s advocates at NARAL Pro-Choice NC, N.C. Women United, NC NOW and Progress NC will be delivering petitions to Senator Thom Tillis’ office in Raleigh this afternoon. This is from the new release (which also includes a link to new and encouraging polling numbers — see after the page break):

Thousands Demand Senators Tillis and Burr Protect Sex Trafficking Survivors Now, NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina and Local Leaders to Deliver Petitions

Sen. Tillis’ Office in Raleigh, NC to be Inundated with Petitions on Wednesday at 2:00PM

On Wednesday April 8, NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, in partnership with NARAL Pro-Choice America, Progress NC Action, NC NOW (National Organization for Women), and NC Women United, will deliver thousands of petitions to the district office of Senator Tillis telling him to stop playing politics and pass a clean Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act for the health and safety of exploited women and children.

NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue had this to say:

“Instead of pushing for the immediate care that survivors of sex trafficking need, Senators Tillis and Burr are treating them like political pawns by stalling this important bill to advance their anti-choice agenda. Given that thousands of American women and children are coerced into performing commercial sex acts for the financial gain of criminals every year, the with banning abortion regardless of individual circumstances is incredibly dangerous. We will accept nothing less than unfettered access to a full range of reproductive health care services for trafficking survivors from our representatives in Congress.”

WHAT: Petition delivery calling for a clean Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act.
WHO: NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina and local leaders
WHEN: April 8, 2:00PM
WHERE: 310 New Bern Avenue Raleigh, NC 27601

NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina Executive Director, Shoshannah Sayers had this to say: Read More