At a press conference Thursday, four North Carolina House Democrats announced their plans to file petitions to discharge, or to directly bring two bills onto the House floor, for discussion next week.
The two bills would introduce a system to temporarily restrict access to firearms and to require a purchase permit for long guns. They were sent to the House rules committee but never heard in a judiciary committee.
Rep. Marcia Morey (D-Durham) described the discharge petition as “the only way that someone in the minority can try to get a bill out of committee, and put onto the floor and have a debate and a discussion.” No discharge petitions has been successful in the past few years, Rep. Julie von Haefen (D-Wake) said. But she maintained that legislators need to use the procedure now.
Morey and von Haefen said the measures are imperative given the rise in gun violent and recent school shootings, including one that resulted in the death of a student in Winston-Salem.
“In 2019, 511 people were killed by guns in our state,” said von Haefen. “But that number increased significantly in 2020 when 670 people were killed by guns, a 31% increase in gun-related deaths in just one year.”
“There have been about 21 bills filed in the House in the Senate on gun laws, most of them to expand gun rights, to take away limitations to remove pistol permitting, that there are God-given gun rights,” Morey said. “But today we are demanding a response to the carnage, with two sensible gun safety pieces of legislation.”
Morey introduced House Bill 525, which would establish rules to temporarily restrict a person’s access to firearms through Extreme Risk Protection Orders. The bill would enable family members, a current or former spouse or partner, law enforcement officers and health care providers to file a petition to court to issue these orders, which would last for up to a year.
Morey recalled her meetings with with five families that lost their children to gun violence last week. She said, “And for the next years, not only will they grieve the loss of their children, or navigate funeral and medical bills, and they will wait and wait and wait for years for a court system to slowly grind to give them a day in court.”
Indeed, she said, it’s time for North Carolina to join more than 20 other states to enact such a “red flag law” that would help prevent harm and deaths caused by people who shouldn’t possess firearms.
Rep. von Haefen filed HB 623, which would require a permit to purchase long guns and rifles. Currently, federally
licensed dealers are required to run background checks on potential buyers of long guns. But no state permit is required.
Becky Ceartas, executive director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, said at the press conference that the federal background checks have major loopholes.
“Our federal background check system, it only applies if you’re buying a gun from a federally licensed dealer,” Ceartas said. “That means if you’re a domestic violence abuser, a minor in my experience you experiencing a mental health crisis, you can go to a gun show or online and buy a gun, no questions asked.”
Von Haefen said she proposed a purchase permit because it helps protect lives. Ceartas said the state pistol permit closes the federal loophole for handguns; those wanting to purchase a handgun needs to obtain a pistol permit or concealed carry permit from the sheriffs’ offices, which perform their own background checks. A bill aimed at eliminating the state pistol purchase permit won approval at the Republican-controlled General Assembly, but was vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper in August.
Rep. Evelyn Terry, D-Forsyth, said the recent shooting at Mt. Tabor high school and discovery of a handgun at Parkland High School in her district sound an alarm for the threat of lax regulation on guns.
“The guns… are in the community…in the trunks of people’s cars… that are going into the hands of children who absolutely have no business getting them at all.”
Rep. Allison Dahle (D-Wake), called on her fellow gun owners to take responsibility that comes with possessing weapons. “There’s nothing wrong with asking a law abiding citizen to get a permit,“ Dahle said. ”It’s not a difficult process to go through.”
“We don’t want your gun; We’re not going to take your gun… We’re asking that you’d be responsible,” Dahle said.