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GunsThe unspeakable tragedy in Chapel Hill this week appears to be causing some important community soul searching about hate crimes and whether the victims were targeted because of their faith. Let’s hope and pray that, in the end, this leads to productive dialogue that further breaks down the walls between people of different religions, races and ethnic backgrounds.

And here’s another thing to hope and pray arises in the aftermath: More thoughtful discussion and dialogue about how our society can take steps to keep troubled souls like Craig Stephen Hicks from accessing and using killing machines.

Surely there’s more that can be done to prevent such future tragedies than simply shaking our heads and arguing that the victims should have been packing weapons for self defense. (Indeed, just imagine the commotion it would cause in many communities if a woman in traditional Muslim attire were seen walking down the street openly carrying a firearm.)

As an editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer noted this morning:

“As always with such a crime, police and other investigators have to look at firearms involved and whether their ownership was legal. But legal or not, there can be little doubt that the presence of a gun before or during an argument increases the likelihood that tragedy will occur.”

If nothing else, lets hope that this latest college town tragedy spurs a new group of American young people to commit themselves to building a society in which guns and other killing machines become as socially ostracized (and thereby increasingly obsolete) as two other formerly-prevalent tools of death: cigarette smoking and drunk driving.

Commentary
state Sen. Thom Goolsby

Former State Sen. Thomas Goolsby

It’s a testament to just how far we have to go in this state — a place in which innocent people are shot and killed on what seems like an almost daily basis — when reasonably intelligent people write lengthy and celebratory blog posts about the long list of ways in which state lawmakers have made killing machines easier to obtain, brandish and use in recent years.

That’s what former State Senator Thomas Goolsby, a Wilmington criminal defense and personal injury lawyer, did last week on his law firm blog. Goolsby’s overwhelmingly depressing lists (click here and here to view them) were trumpeted yesterday on the soon-to-be-defunct legislative news website of former State Representative Tim Moffitt yesterday (Moffitt was defeated in November and will presumably stop referring to himself as a State Representative shortly).

Moffitt’s post is entitled “Of Interest to Gun Owners.” Lets hope it’s of interest to all caring and thinking North Carolinians — gun owners and non-owners alike — as they come together in the years ahead to begin to rein in this state’s out-of-control gun violence crisis.

Commentary

There were vigils all across the country last night (and there will be more this weekend) for the victims of the Newtown tragedy on its second anniversary, including the one pictured at leftNCGV vigil that took place at the Judea Reform Congregation in Durham.

And while it was a somber affair, there was some good news to share. For instance:

Since Newtown, 99 laws strengthening gun regulations have been passed in 37 states. This includes new laws protecting domestic violence victims in eight states, California’s new “Gun Violence Restraining Order” law, Washington state’s new universal background checks ballot initiative and new comprehensive regulations in Massachusetts.

Evidence also continues to mount that gun safety laws work since states with stronger laws continue to have lower gun death rates than states with weaker laws.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, public opinion continues to grow in favor of stronger laws. Nine out of 10 Americans now support expanding background checks to cover private sales — this includes 80% of gun owners and 74% of NRA members.

The bottom line: Slowly but surely, the truth is sinking in to Americans that it’s possible (and indeed essential) to craft stronger, smarter laws that protect innocent people without infringing on gun ownership.  NRA bullies may dominate the political playing field in many places (like North Carolina) for the time being, but their days of dominance are numbered.

Commentary

Candlelight-vigilHere’s something that would be worth an hour of your time tonight: North Carolinians Against Gun Violence will hold a vigil tonight at 7:00 p.m. to mark the second anniversary of Newtown and to organize against future tragedies of this kind.Sadly, there have been at least 91 school shootings in the U.S. just since the Newtown tragedy.

Here are the details:

WHEN : December 11, 2014 at 7pm – 8pm

WHERE: Judea Reform Congregation, 1933 W Cornwallis Rd in Durham  – Google map and directions

QUESTIONS? Contact Becky Ceartas  at ncgv@ncgv.org or 919-403-7665

Hope to see you there.

Commentary

As today’s Fitzsimon File explains in detail, not a whole lot of good things have happened on either the gun violence or mental health fronts in North Carolina during the two years since the unspeakable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut:

“The National Alliance on Mental Illness released a report this week that finds reforms have stalled since Newtown with Congress again failing to pass comprehensive mental health legislation.

Efforts in the states are sputtering as well. The report examines the push to increase funding for mental health programs after the deep cuts made during the Great Recession.  It finds that many states increased mental health funding in 2013 and some managed to invest more in 2014 too, though not nearly as many.

Only six states in the country slashed mental health funding in both 2013 and 2014. North Carolina was one of them.”

Fortunately, there is something you can do about this absurd situation — right away, in fact. This Thursday evening, December 11 at 7:00 p.m., North Carolinians Against Gun Violence will hold a vigil to mark the second anniversary of Newtown and to organize against future tragedies of this kind. Here are the details:

According to recent statistics, there have been at least 91 school shootings, including fatal and nonfatal assaults, suicides, and unintentional shootings, since the tragic assault in Newtown, CT. Since Newtown, there has been nearly one school shooting per week.

On December 11th at 7pm we will be having a candlelit vigil to remember these victims as well as the 60,000 American victims of gun violence since December 2012.

WHEN : December 11, 2014 at 7pm – 8pm

WHERE: Judea Reform Congregation, 1933 W Cornwallis Rd in Durham  – Google map and directions

QUESTIONS? Contact Becky Ceartas  at ncgv@ncgv.org or 919-403-7665

Hope to see you there.