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GunsIt shows you how far off course North Carolina government has strayed in recent years that so many good people are in a celebratory mood this morning after the Senate’s passage last night of legislation to further loosen state gun regulations. The source of the happiness (or at least, the relief), of course, is the fact that the bill has been transformed from the terrifying monster it was a few weeks ago into a junkyard dog. Provisions that would have scrapped the state’s handgun permitting system and limited doctors’ ability to ask patients about guns in the home, for instance, were removed.

That said, the bill remains dangerous and unnecessary. As the good people at North Carolinians Against Gun Violence explained last night:

“The bill loosens gun restrictions by allowing guns in locked cars at the state fairgrounds during the State Fair. It will also allow someone to take a gun out of a locked car on educational property to defend themselves or others against a threatening situation, a role advocates say is better left to law enforcement. Limiting local jurisdiction, the bill weakens municipalities’ ability to determine when and where guns are allowed. It also downgrades carrying a concealed weapon on private property to an infraction.”

In other words, when Gov. McCrory signs the bill into law — as he presumably will — North Carolina will have more killing machines in more places than before.

Whoopee!

So, congratulations to the advocates who helped beat back the original version of the legislation. It was one of the first successes gun safety advocates have had in North Carolina in a long time and a lot of people deserve great credit for their hard and courageous work and important success. Let’s hope, however, that this is just the first baby step for a growing movement that will not just staunch the state’s bleeding, but ultimate;y help heal the wounds brought on by several years of senseless gun deregulation.

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“This tragedy that we’re addressing right now is undescribable,” Charleston’s police chief said at a news conference. “No one in this community will ever forget this night. And as a result of that, and because of the pain, and because of the hurt that this individual has caused this community, this entire community, the law enforcement agencies that are working on this are committed — we will catch this individual.”

As news continues to roll in about this apparent hate crime that took a host of lives at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, that pain will only expand. Actions like this have grievous consequences for years, even generations to come.

Lest we forget, terrorist violence of this nature has a long history of targeting black churches.

When I think of this tragedy and the community’s pain, I think of Michael S. Harper’s short but devastating poem, “American History,” which references Charleston and addressed these themes years before this latest tragedy. All I have to say about the vile motives of the vicious and cowardly man who committed these murders, Harper said better in a few short lines.

My heart breaks for the victims of this tragedy, and I hope we can all take a moment to recognize the pain and loss of a community — while committing ourselves to building a world where this never happens again.

 

Commentary

GunsOne of the best op-eds of the weekend came, as usual, from Ned Barnett of Raleigh’s News & Observer who shined a light on some courageous folks who’ve been working to stop the General Assembly’s latest nonsensical push to further the spread of easy guns into every nook and cranny.

In “Code orange in North Carolina for moms v. guns,” Barnett highlights the work of local activists with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America who are slowly, step by step, beginning to turn the state’s gun debate around.

The group’s top objective this year: to stop House Bill 562, the proposal to repeal the state’s successful pistol permitting system and to further loosen the state’s already minimal gun control laws. Happily, as we noted here last Friday, the group seems to be making some headway. Whereas the General Assembly has acted as a rubber stamp for the gun lobby in recent years, this time the votes are very close.

Let’s hope the group succeed this week with its efforts to halt or further water down the gun proposal. It’s currently on the House calendar for tonight. Whatever happens though, the best news is this: the activists moms highlighted Barnett say they’re just getting started:

“Members of the moms group know there’s no repealing the Second Amendment. But they think there’s room to make a difference in the margins. One step is to lobby for laws promoting the safe storage of guns. Four children have already been accidentally shot in North Carolina this year. Another is to protect laws already on the books, such as the sheriffs’ review of pistol permit requests. .

Sarah Green, 36, of Winston-Salem, is a mother of three and the volunteer leader of the North Carolina chapter of the moms group. She said the national organization has responded to the inability to get gun control laws through Congress by focusing on the states. Her hope is that Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America can attain the same level of influence achieved by Moms Against Drunk Driving. Green’s group recently posted an interactive map of unintentional shootings involving a person 17 or under.

‘We don’t feel like it’s a futile effort, but we realize this is a marathon, not a sprint,’ Green says. ‘We’re committed. We’re parents. The gun lobby fears losing their guns. We fear losing our children.’”

Commentary
Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer

Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer

The folks running the North Carolina General Assembly may decide to buck public opinion yet again in the coming weeks and force through Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer’s legislation to put killing machines in the hands of more dangerous people, but one gets the sense that the momentum to stop such proposals and preserve some of the state’s remaining modest and common sense gun regulations is growing.

Schaffer’s bill is now drawing national attention as is evidenced by the fine op-ed in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer by Prof. Daniel Webster of Johns Hopkins University entitled “Making it easier for criminal to get guns in NC.” Here’s Webster:

“Research indicates that the proposed changes would lead to more violent crime in North Carolina. A study of legal handgun purchasers in California during the period just before the state barred violent misdemeanants from possessing handguns found that violent misdemeanants were roughly 10 times more likely to be arrested for committing a violent crime after purchasing a handgun than were truly law-abiding purchasers. When California changed its law to prohibit persons convicted of violent misdemeanors from having firearms, the newly prohibited group was much less likely to commit violent crime than individuals with similar criminal histories who legally acquired handguns prior to the change in the law.

If you want to know what happens when a state repeals a law requiring background checks for all handguns sales, you can look to the state of Missouri. Read More

Commentary

5-11-15-NCPW-cartoon1[This post has been updated.] As explained in the post immediately below, the House Rules Committee was scheduled to take up a bill this morning to further liberalize North Carolina gun laws. Late last night, however, the meeting was, thankfully, cancelled. Greensboro News & Record columnist Susan Ladd explains this morning why the bill “is not designed to ‘protect’ or ‘affirm’ citizens’ Second Amendment rights. It is designed to keep expanding those rights beyond the realm of reason.”

Here is Ladd’s handy summary of what the bill would do in its present form:

• If you’re a business owner and don’t like the idea of your customers packing heat, tough beans. Your only option is to place a large sign in a prominent location notifying customers that weapons are prohibited. But like the right of parlay in “Pirates of the Caribbean, this is more like a guideline than a rule, because violating the notice would no longer be a misdemeanor but simply an infraction.

• Schools would be unable to forbid students and teachers from having guns in their locked vehicles on school grounds. I’m sure that long walk to the car and the laborious process of unlocking it would be sufficient to keep a person bent on violence from using a gun on fellow students or teachers.

• Doctors would be forbidden Read More