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NC Democrats, gun-control advocates again seek GOP action

June 9, 2022 GMT

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Democratic legislators and gun-control advocates pleaded Thursday for Republicans to allow debate and pass measures they say would keep weapons out of the hands of young people and those with mental illness.

Renewing their calls for additional gun restrictions following recent mass shootings at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, and a school in Uvalde, Texas, speakers at a Legislative Building news conference criticized GOP leaders for failing to act on their proposals years ago.

“Nothing is radical. Nothing violates the Second Amendment,” said Rep. Marcia Morey, a Durham County Democrat. “Are guns more important than children? Don’t look away — it’s time to save lives.”

Morey highlighted proposals that would require background checks for all gun sales, prohibit people under 21 from owning assault-style weapons and create a legal process whereby firearms can be removed from someone believed to be an extreme risk of harming themselves or others. Nineteen states already have similar risk protection order laws.

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Republicans have refused to hold hearings on such measures and in recent years have instead approved bills — later vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper — that would have eliminated the permit someone must obtain from a sheriff before buying a pistol and expanded the right-to-carry in more churches. Gun-rights advocates are influential at the General Assembly.

While Democratic-controlled legislatures in New York and Delaware have passed or advanced gun restrictions in recent weeks, the GOP-led General Assembly is North Carolina is expected to bottle up the Democratic measures while this year’s annual work session ends, likely in early July.

House Speaker Tim Moore, a Cleveland County Republican, told reporters later Thursday that the legislature last year put $83 million in the current budget on school safety improvements, with more spending expected in budget adjustments currently being negotiated. Spending priorities also have included mental health services, he said.

Regions of the country with tough gun control laws are still riddled with crime — evidence, Moore said, that the restrictions don’t prevent violence.

“I don’t think the voters of the state want to see North Carolina go down the road of all this gun control, that does not work,” Moore said.

A new proposal unveiled at Thursday’s news conference by Democratic Sen. Natalie Murdock of Durham County would prevent gun sales and new gun dealer shops within roughly a quarter-mile of any school or child care center.

Murdock, who grew up in a home with a gun that her father owned, said the idea is not about trying to eliminate gun sales all together. She cited a study of California high school data that associates the proximity of gun stores to schools with gun-carrying by students.

“We’re trying to keep our children safe so that they have the freedom to get an education,” Murdock said. “Let’s not gavel out this summer and yet again fail to do anything.”

Other speakers unhappy with gun-control measures sitting in idle recalled the 2019 shooting at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte that left two people dead and four wounded.

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Leah Krevat, a former Apex High School student with the group Students Demand Action, looked to the November elections, when all 170 General Assembly seats are on the ballot.

“If we want to end gun violence, we need to reelect those that are currently fighting for us and elect new ‘gun-sense’ candidates to replace those who aren’t,” Krevat said.