NC Democrats press Republicans to move on gun laws after recent mass shootings

NC Democrats press Republicans to move on gun laws after recent mass shootings

- in News, Top Story


State Rep. Marcia Morey (D-Durham), flanked by fellow Democratic lawmakers, implored Republican members on Tuesday to join them in taking action on two gun bills that have been languishing in committee since they were introduced early in the 2019 legislative session.

Morey said the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton underscore once again the need for North Carolina lawmakers to take steps that could avert a similar tragedy in this state.

The lawmakers highlighted two bills, in particular.

House Bill 454 (Allow ERPOs to Save Lives & Prevent Suicides) would allow family members and law enforcement officers to report first-hand knowledge of warning signs and petition a court for an ERPO, a temporary revocation of a person’s firearm(s). The bill was introduced on March 26 and sent to the House Judiciary Committee on March 27, where it has resided ever since.

House Bill 86 (Gun Violence Prevention Act) is a 13 page bill that would: require a permit for the purchase of long guns or assault weapons, establish a three-day waiting period for gun purchases, prohibit the sale of “bump stocks” or “trigger cranks,” place limits of the size of ammunition magazines, and require the reporting of lost or stolen firearms. HB 86 was introduced and assigned to the House Judiciary Committee almost six months ago (on February 18).

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have enacted ‘Red Flag’ laws similar to HB 454. Under the legislation, judges could issue the protection orders in a manner similar to domestic violence restraining orders. A partner, family member or law enforcement officer with first-hand knowledge of a potential danger could petition a district judge for the order.

If granted, law enforcement would be ordered to temporarily remove any firearms and schedule a hearing within 10 business days to determine the nature of the danger, if the weapons should be returned and whether the person needs treatment.

As Policy Watch reported in March:

A Duke University study examined 14 years of the use of such a law in Connecticut. A study published in the journal Psychiatric Services examined data from both Connecticut and Indiana.

The studies found:

  • Suicide risk was the number one driver of removal of guns in both states, as it now is is in every state where such laws exist.
  • Middle aged men were by far the largest demographic to which the orders were applied – 92 percent in the Duke study. The average age was 47 years.
  • There was a step-up in usage of the laws following the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech.
  • Following that increased usage, gun suicides did drop in both states – 7.5 percent in Indiana and 13.7 percent in Connecticut. But over a number of years, non-gun suicides in Connecticut went up enough to essentially erase the drop.

The Duke University study concluded the laws seemed, on balance, to save lives.

Raleigh’s News & Observer reported in February that several parts of House Bill 86, which was first introduced around the anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School on Parkland Florida, have been introduced in previous years and were never debated in committee or came to votes. At the time, Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford) expressed optimism that there would be bipartisan support for at least part of House Bill 86.

Those attending this morning’s press conference acknowledged that their Republican colleagues in the General Assembly might not support all of the details in the two measures, but reiterated a collective plea that it was time to begin the debate.

Drew Pescaro was one of six students shot April 30th on the UNC-Charlotte campus. He’s demanding lawmakers take action this session.

The lawmakers also highlighted the fact that they have been circulating a “discharge petition” – a procedural tool under which the two bills could be released from committee without the approval of the chair – but they will need at least six Republicans to sign on in order to succeed.

“We are looking for political courage,” said Rep. Deb Butler (D-Brunswick, New Hanover).

The most powerful voice in the legislative press room was that of Drew Pescaro of Apex. Pescaro was one of six students shot April 30th on the UNC-Charlotte campus.

“This isn’t the life I asked for. I just want action,” said an emotional Pescaro, who lifted his shirt allowing the media and lawmakers to see the scars he sustained from the shooting and multiple surgeries.

“You got elected to act. You did not get elected to simply not allow things to get voted on.”

State Rep. Ted Davis (R-New Hanover), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, has said with the session winding down there may not be sufficient time to act on either piece of legislation.

Joe Killian and Rob Schofield contributed to this story.