Gun violence is rising in NC and our lawmakers aren’t doing enough | Opinion

As the North Carolina General Assembly convenes for its short session this week, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action are joining forces Thursday in Raleigh to urge lawmakers to address gun violence with legislation proven to reduce the number of shootings and save lives.

The toll of gun violence in North Carolina is dire. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, the state’s overall rate of gun deaths increased 47% from 2012 to 2021. Homicides almost doubled, with a 91% increase during this period.

Grace McLain
Grace McLain

Gun violence per capita for both suicide and homicide is highest in our rural counties. And, firearms are now the leading cause of death among children and teens in North Carolina, with 62% the result of homicide and 32% suicide. Black and Latino children are particularly vulnerable. According to the Pew Research Center, Black children are five times more likely to die by guns than their white peers. LGBTQ+ youth and adults are also disproportionately impacted. Many fear for their lives in public settings because of the combination of anti-LGBTQ policies, hateful rhetoric, and rampant rates of gun violence.

Beyond the human toll, gun violence costs North Carolina $19.5 billion each year, of which $471 million is paid by taxpayers. As these numbers show, North Carolina needs to change the culture and conversation around guns to one of responsible ownership.

To our dismay, the General Assembly weakened our longstanding system of background checks last session when it passed Senate Bill 41, which repealed the state’s pistol purchase permit law. As expected, handgun sales surged. Now some lawmakers are considering additional legislation to support the gun lobby’s “Guns Everywhere” agenda, which would increase gun-related crimes, suicides and unintentional shootings.

We deserve and demand better in North Carolina.

Background checks save lives. Firearms safety courses save lives. Making it harder for domestic abusers to keep a firearm saves lives. We can protect children and adults against suicide, unintentional shootings and crime associated with stolen guns through secure firearm storage in homes and vehicles. We can disrupt cycles of violence and restore lives through community-based violence intervention.

We know from the example of other states and communities that gun violence decreases when these policies are in place.

North Carolinians like me are fed up with lawmakers failing to protect public safety. We reject permit-less concealed carry and any effort to weaken background checks or firearm safety training.

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense urges the General Assembly to adequately fund NC S.A.F.E., a safe gun storage program. We urge the legislature to fund NC S.A.F.E. with recurring dollars to cover the awareness campaign, gun locks and safes, and to fund the North Carolina Office of Violence Prevention and Community Violence Intervention (CVI) programs needed in both urban and rural settings.

Policy changes make it harder for criminals, domestic abusers and children to obtain guns. We insist that our elected officials promote responsible ownership and pass gun safety policies to actually protect North Carolinians.

Make no mistake — if our representatives won’t prioritize gun violence prevention, we will work tirelessly to elect candidates who will.

Grace McLain is North Carolina chapter leader for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense.