Politics & Government

Cooper’s terrorism gun-control proposal draws fire

Roy Cooper announces he is running for governor at an event at Nash Community College in Rocky Mount on Oct. 12, 2015. In his capacity as attorney general, Cooper has called on Gov. Pat McCrory and the legislature to use a national terrorist watch list to keep guns out of terrorists’ hands in North Carolina.
Roy Cooper announces he is running for governor at an event at Nash Community College in Rocky Mount on Oct. 12, 2015. In his capacity as attorney general, Cooper has called on Gov. Pat McCrory and the legislature to use a national terrorist watch list to keep guns out of terrorists’ hands in North Carolina. cseward@newsobserver.com

Attorney General Roy Cooper’s proposal to prevent suspected terrorists from buying firearms in North Carolina continued to attract political reaction for a second day on Tuesday.

Cooper, who officially filed his statement of candidacy for governor on Tuesday, issued Monday’s statement in his official capacity. He called on Gov. Pat McCrory and the legislature to use a national terrorist watch list to keep guns out of terrorists’ hands in North Carolina.

Last week, the U.S. Senate rejected a measure that would do the same thing. On Saturday, President Barack Obama called on Congress to prohibit those who are on a federal no-fly list from buying guns.

“Stopping terror suspects from getting weapons that could harm our state and its people makes common sense,” Cooper said in the statement. “Even if Washington won’t act, we can.”

The McCrory administration and the state Republican Party responded with criticism.

"It's shameful that Roy Cooper has chosen once again to side with Washington, D.C. and follow President Obama's lead, using the recent terrorist attack as a bait-and-switch to push for more gun control in North Carolina,” state GOP Chairman Hasan Harnett said in a statement the party released Monday.

"The attorney general’s so-called solution regarding the national terrorist watch list could actually compromise ongoing terrorist investigations within the state of North Carolina," said Department of Public Safety Secretary Frank Perry in a statement Monday. "The attorney general doesn’t understand that he is co-mingling criminal matters with potential undercover intelligence operations, which change daily."

Cooper’s spokeswoman, Noelle Talley, re-iterated on Tuesday the motivation.

“This is a common-sense measure that would make it harder for someone on the terrorist watchlist to purchase a firearm in North Carolina and Attorney General Cooper is committed to working with the legislature and governor to get it done,” Talley said.

On Tuesday, the state Democratic Party held a news conference on the grounds of the Capitol in downtown Raleigh calling on Gov. Pat McCrory to say whether or not he disagrees with the attorney general.

Kimberly Reynolds, executive director of the party, called Perry’s comments “a distraction.”

“We just want to know, simply, where does Gov. McCrory stand?”

McCrory’s office did not directly respond, but spokesman Graham Wilson, in an email, made the governor’s reaction clear:

“Of all people, the attorney general has not done his homework before making a dangerous and uninformed policy statement on such an important public safety issue.”

The federal government’s terrorism watch list contains more than 1 million people. Obama called on Congress to prevent terrorists who are on the smaller no-fly list from buying guns, a list of about 47,000 names. Critics say the much larger watch list is too expansive and includes some people erroneously.

Cooper’s office says he got the idea for the proposal from a similar law that New Jersey enacted in 2012, under Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

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