North Carolina’s legislature hasn’t passed gun control legislation since 2015. But in the wake of this weekend’s mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, pressure is building to change that.
Several bills changing gun policy have stalled in committee, and on Monday Gov. Roy Cooper and four House Democrats urged pulling two of them out for debate.
House Bill 86 would restrict who can obtain firearms. Currently, North Carolina requires either a concealed-carry permit or a sheriff-issued pistol purchase permit to buy a handgun, but long guns including assault-style rifles can be bought with only a state I.D. and a background check at the counter.
Under HB86, long guns like rifles would also require a permit, and there would be a 72-hour waiting period before the buyer could take the gun home.
“This includes the weapons that were used in the mass shootings this weekend,” said Rep. Christy Clark, a Mecklenburg Democrat who’s co-sponsoring the bill with Reps. Marcia Morey, Pricey Harrison and Shelly Willingham. They plan to file a discharge petition Tuesday to pry HB86 and another bill out of committee.
Clark ran on a platform of addressing firearms violence in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., school massacre last year.
The New York Times reported that the weapon used in Sunday’s Dayton shooting was an AR-15 assault rifle, the same one as the Parkland shooting. HB86 would also ban high-capacity ammunition magazines, which were used in both of the weekend’s shootings, the Times reported.
“No one needs a high-capacity magazine,” said Becky Ceartas, executive director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, which supports the bill.
HB86 would also restrict assault-style weapons from anyone under the age of 21. Currently, the legal age in North Carolina is 18.
Other measures in the bill would require citizens to purchase firearm liability insurance, to reduce the recognition of concealed-carry permits issued by other states, and to ban trigger cranks and bump stocks, the latter of which was federally outlawed last year.
Paul Valone, president of North Carolina’s largest gun rights group, Grass Roots North Carolina, called the measure “the we-want-everything” bill. Valone said the answer to mass shootings isn’t limiting access to firearms, and that his organization opposed every one of the bill’s measures.
Valone’s solution is simple: “Mass killers avoid armed victims.” His group advocates for opening up carrying laws to allow guns to be borne in more areas than currently permitted to discourage shooters from targeting unarmed civilians.
Valone also decried the second of the bills Cooper endorsed Monday, HB454. It’s what’s called an extreme risk protection or “red flag law,” and allows people to file a court order to take away the weapons of someone who they think may be a danger to themselves or others.
“The shooter in El Paso was clearly a white supremacist, and somebody must have seen warning signs,” Ceartas said. The bill would pull people’s weapons for a 1-3 week “waiting period,” and is aimed at reducing both shootings and suicides — the largest group of gun deaths.
Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia currently have some type of “red flag” law on the books.
“It’s more than just the mass shootings,” said Grace McClain of the Charlotte chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “There’s more that we can do to keep our families safe.”
McClain cited the growing number of gun deaths in the country, as well as the high murder rate in Charlotte this year as reasons to enact the two laws.
Her group is focused on petitioning North Carolina’s two U.S. senators to vote on a national background check bill that passed the House five months ago. Both Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr were among the top four most well-funded congressman by the National Rifle Association last year.
Clark said the NRA’s influence over North Carolina’s Republican-majority legislature is one reason the state has stalled on gun control legislation.
Other gun control bills have also lingered in committee. HB 842 would require the registration of all assault-style weapons, as well as the reporting of any lost firearms. And HB 816 would lay out how weapons could be stored in vehicles.
There are also proposed N.C. bills that would reduce limits on gun ownership, such as one that proposes doing away with the concealed-carry system. And Valone’s group supports a bill to train more teachers to carry in schools.
“When we’re looking at what’s happening in our country, and even Mecklenburg County, it’s very tone-deaf to introduce a bill that would make it easier for someone to have access to firearms,” Rep. Clark said.
In order for the bills supported by Cooper and the four representatives to leave committee and reach the House floor for debate and a vote, the discharge petition would require 61 votes in a House with 55 Democrats.
Clark said she believes that six Republicans may cross the aisle to vote. Valone disagreed, saying that the drive to pass gun control legislation comes from the political left.
“We have reached a point in time where you need to make a choice,” Clark said.