President Barack Obama may have pledged one of the most aggressive gun-control plans in decades last week, but dont expect North Carolina to follow suit anytime soon.
Some state lawmakers said they planned to take a more cautious approach to gun-control legislation than Obama if they make any changes at all.
Jordan Shaw, spokesman for N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said at this point, its probably unlikely that youll see any substantive changes in gun laws in the state.
Instead, Shaw said, the speaker would probably focus on how the state can improve in the areas of mental health and school safety, although Shaw said he wasnt aware of specific legislation along those lines yet.
In the wake of Decembers Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, which killed 26 children and teachers, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden last week announced a comprehensive gun-control agenda that includes banning assault weapons, limiting ammunition magazines to 10 rounds, requiring background checks on all gun purchases and penalizing those who buy guns from unlicensed dealers.
Several states also are taking action. Earlier this month, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed through a bill that expands the states limits on assault weapons and bans ammunition magazines that hold more than seven rounds. It also requires more frequent background checks and requires gun owners to renew their licenses every five years.
But given the Republican-controlled General Assembly, its unlikely North Carolinians will see such aggressive steps toward tougher gun legislation anytime soon, legislators said, although there will undoubtedly be many bills proposed.
Im sure there will be different types of gun legislation introduced here on both sides of the issue, when the session starts Jan. 30, Shaw said.
Democrats are preparing legislation on several fronts.
Sen. Malcolm Graham, D-Mecklenburg, said he has been quietly working on legislation that would create a study committee on the gun laws in the state. From there, the General Assembly can decide how to reform those laws.
And Rep. Beverly Earle, D-Mecklenburg, said she is working on legislation that would limit the size of gun magazines, among other things.
You dont need a rifle that will totally tear somebody apart and will shoot all these rounds, Earle said. Thats not something most people need to have access to.
But Mecklenburg County lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said it was not likely that a ban on assault weapons would be introduced in the General Assembly.
That horse is out of the barn, said freshman Sen. Jeff Tarte, R-Mecklenburg. Unless youre going to confiscate guns, that really serves as an emotional satisfaction that just gives you a false sense of security.
Rep. Rodney Moore, D-Mecklenburg, agreed that an assault-weapon ban would probably not gain traction with the majority. And Rep. Charlie Jeter, R-Mecklenburg, said defining an assault weapon would prove too cumbersome to be effective.
Many lawmakers, however, said they would be open to discussing closing the loophole for private dealers to sell guns without a background check, particularly at gun shows.
We absolutely have to do a rigorous effort to keep firearms out of the hands of people who shouldnt have them, Tarte said.
Tarte suggested he would be open to removing the Gun Free Zones designation from public schools, noting that it may actually make schools more unsafe because criminals know they probably wont face any confrontation there.
Meanwhile, some local officials in North Carolina said they planned to petition the General Assembly to not follow Washingtons lead.
Earlier this month, Gaston County commissioner Tracy Philbeck introduced a measure asking the state to make personal information contained in gun permits now part of the public record private.
The board may vote on the measure at its meeting Thursday.
From there, it would then be forwarded to other counties in the state, the N.C. House and Senate and the governors office.
Jeter said he hopes any legislation the General Assembly passes is based on empirical data and not emotions.
Shaw said Tillis holds a similar viewpoint.
We are going to make sure we take a thoughtful approach to these issues, Shaw said. It cant be a politicized approach and it cant be a reactionary approach to the events that happened or what is going on in Washington.