Newspaper examines gun lobby influence in North Carolina legislature

The News & Observer released an in-depth report today that takes a look at the NRA’s influence on North Carolina state legislators.

Momentum on gun reform bills at the legislature has dwindled since the summer, but reporters at the newspaper received a number of concerns from North Carolinians about their safety and about how the gun lobby influences state lawmakers.

The NRA spends millions of dollars every year to influence Congress, primarily Republicans, and lobbies for loose gun laws. But what about at the state level? The News & Observer researched campaign finance reports to find out how much influence the NRA has in the legislature.

Measuring influence by dollars may not be the point.

“Liberals continue to push this false narrative that money from gun lobbyist groups is one of the main driving forces for Republican candidates, but the reality is North Carolina is a state where many people feel very strongly about their right to bear arms, and vote for Republicans who will protect that right,” Senate leader Phil Berger said in a statement emailed to The News & Observer.

Republican state lawmakers, unlike Democrats, do not necessarily see gun regulation as the best response to mass shootings. And they view the Second Amendment differently than Democrats, who generally support stricter gun laws.

“It’s that simple and it’s also understood by North Carolina’s voters that Democrats are intent on advancing policies that violate the rights of law-abiding gun owners. As elected officials, it’s our duty to protect the constitutionally provided rights of our citizens,” Berger said.

[State Rep. Christy Clark, a Huntersville Democrat] said that gun legislation like extreme risk protection orders should be a nonpartisan issue and could save lives.

The newspaper found that NRA money flowing into North Carolina is less than other groups. The NRA political action committee gave $14,800 to legislators from January 2017 through June 2019. All of the members are Republicans.

According the the article, the federal level of lobbying presents a different story. U.S. Sen. Richard Burr and Sen. Thom Tillis, both of North Carolina, were among the top five beneficiaries in Congress of money from the NRA, the newspaper reported. NRA groups had spent nearly $7 million on behalf of Burr as of early 2018, and $4.5 million on behalf of Tillis, with much of it used to campaign against their opponents.

Read the full report here, which includes information about who the NRA endorses in North Carolina, an update about gun bills in the state legislature and a look at whether Democrats are targeted by gun groups.

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