[This story has been updated with additional comments]
Democratic lawmakers want the General Assembly to act on a pair of gun-control bills.
In a morning news conference, Democratic lawmakers urged Republicans to sign discharge petitions, which would move two gun-control bills out of committee and onto the House floor for debate.
“I invite my Republican colleagues to do what is sensible, to do what’s right, and to do what our state is demanding,” Rep. Marcia Morey, D-Durham, said. “Let’s have a conversation. Let’s take a vote, up or down. This is something we can’t ignore.”
The call to action comes after back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, over the weekend.
House Bill 454 and House Bill 86 have stalled in the House Judiciary Committee since introduced earlier this year. Six Republicans would have to sign a petition to get either of the bills on the floor. No Republican has signed so far.
Rep. Ted Davis, R-New Hanover, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, has said time is a factor in whether the bills are heard.
“We’re winding down, and I don’t know that there will be an opportunity for us to hear any of those bills this session,” Davis told WRAL. “I also don’t know what the Senate’s appetite is.”
Davis didn’t respond to a request for comment on this story.
The bill sponsors are tired of waiting.
“We are here today because we have heard the pleas of this nation, the chants of El Paso and Dayton to do something,” Rep. Deb Butler, D-New Hanover, said. “They cry out, ‘do something.’”
Butler led a brief chant of “do something” with some of the attendees. She slammed her fist on the podium multiple times and called on Republican lawmakers to find the political courage to sign the discharge petitions and move forward on the gun debate.
H.B. 86, Gun Violence Prevention Act, would require several changes to current laws in North Carolina. Under the bill, a purchase permit would be required for “assault weapons” and “long guns.” Current state law requires only a purchase permit for hand-guns. High-capacity magazines, bump stocks, and trigger cranks would be outlawed. Gun owners would be required to buy firearm liability insurance and wait 72 hours after purchase before receiving their gun.
The other bill, H.B. 454, would establish Extreme Risk Protection Orders. ERPOs would allow the state to temporarily seize someone’s firearms if a judge determines that person is a risk to others or to themselves. Bill sponsors said the ERPOs would be modeled after existing violence protection orders for victims of domestic violence. Seventeen states have already passed the so-called “red flag” laws.
Freshman Rep. Christy Clark, D-Mecklenburg, a primary sponsor of both bills, said it’s time for lawmakers to decide whether they want to side with the gun lobby or with gun violence survivors and victims.
“When the next mass shooting happens in North Carolina and you’re asked what did you do, is your answer going to be nothing, or is it going to be, ‘I support common-sense gun law reform,’” Clark said.
Gun control advocates, such as Moms Demand Action, attended the news conference, as did Drew Pescaro, a survivor of a shooting April 30 at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Pescaro, of Apex, was one of six students who were shot. Two students, Reed Parlier and Riley Howell, were killed.
“I think this legislation would have prevented that tragedy,” Pescaro said.
Pescaro, who showed attendees scars from the shooting, said he hopes Republicans will have a conversation about gun violence and take up the bills. He wonders why the UNC-Charlotte shooting wasn’t enough to spark that conversation.
Republican lawmakers have been reluctant to discuss gun control. Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, formed the House Select Committee on School Safety after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The committee never discussed guns.
Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, published a Facebook post with comments about the recent shootings. Lewis, who chaired the House Select Committee on School Safety, said lawmakers have an obligation to delve into the deep-rooted societal issues that have led to the recent tragedies.
“I am interested in additional common sense proposals that will keep all North Carolinians safe,” Lewis said in his post. “That being said, any effort to advance gun safety by preventing truly dangerous individuals from accessing firearms should be structured to fully protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.”
Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said he’s open to discussion.
“Senator Berger is always willing to listen to proposed solutions on any topic,” Bill D’Elia, a spokesman for Berger, said in an email. “He is concerned about whether some of the ideas being discussed by Democrats at press conferences following the shootings would have stopped the recent tragedies.”