News: CJ Exclusives

N.C. Democrats Push Gun Control in Wake of Newtown

Nine of 15 current or incoming lawmakers unclear about new laws

Three Democratic members of the North Carolina congressional delegation have joined President Obama in calling for more gun control as a means of preventing a mass shooting like the one Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Meanwhile, three Republican lawmakers have said they would not support additional gun control measures, while the other seven Republicans and Democrats Kay Hagan and Mike McIntyre have not made their positions clear.

One of the most outspoken Democrats, 4th District Rep. David Price, wants to reinstate an assault weapons ban, prohibit large-capacity ammunition clips, and close the so-called gun show “loophole” that 33 states have, which allows people to buy guns from gun shows without background checks.

Grassroots North Carolina, a gun-rights advocacy group, says more guns, not fewer, are needed to prevent mass shootings, and will be pushing for legislation to arm teachers in January when the General Assembly goes back into session.


Carolina Journal asked North Carolina’s 13 U.S. House members and two senators whether they would support new gun control legislation in response to the recent shooting. Specifically, they were asked about three proposals President Obama recently said he’d like Congress to consider:

1. Banning assault weapons.
2. Restricting high capacity ammunition clips.
3. Closing the gun show “loophole” in every jurisdiction nationwide.

For those who did not respond, CJ cited public comments they had made after the Sandy Hook killings.

Supporting more gun control

• Rep. G. K. Butterfield-D, 1st District

“I support the constitutional right of Americans to bear arms. However, in these modern times, I believe Congress should enact responsible gun laws that would limit the proliferation of assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.”

• Rep. David Price, D-4th District

“Rep. Price has called for reinstating the assault weapons ban to get military style weapons off our streets. In the current Congress, he’s also supported measures to close the gun show loophole, strengthen the background check process, and ban large capacity ammunition clips.” — Press Secretary Andrew High

• Rep. Mel Watt, D-12th District

“I would say first of all that I fully support the approach and discussion the president had last night,” WRAL quoted Watt as saying. “The Supreme Court has basically elevated the second amendment to the place where the first amendment is elevated.”

Opposing more gun control

• Rep. Howard Coble, R-6th District

Coble said he would not support any of the president’s three gun control proposals.

“Unfortunately, banning assault weapons, limiting high capacity clips or requiring background checks at gun shows will not reduce gun violence,” he added. “If these restrictions are enacted, assault weapons, many of which are made overseas, will still be available; criminals will continue use firearms with high or low capacity clips; and the black market for firearms will flourish.”

• Rep.-elect Richard Hudson, R-8th District

“There are no easy answers, and I do not support new restrictions on our constitutional freedoms to solve this complex societal problem.”

• Rep.-elect George Holding, R-13th District

“It would be reassuring to believe a government program could cure violence but governments have been trying — and failing — for a long time.”

“When tragedies like this happen, it’s natural to want to find a cure — quick. This may be the least popular time to say gun control is not the answer — but it’s not.”

Position unclear

• Sen. Richard Burr, R

“This horrendous event highlights the need to provide care and treatment for mentally ill and unstable individuals and continue to work to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals.”

• Sen. Kay Hagan, D

“We need a common-sense debate on a comprehensive approach that looks at access to guns, including laws that may have already been on the books, access to mental health care, and violent video games. In the coming months I will review any proposals with an open mind, ensuring that they will improve the safety of our communities without restricting the rights of responsible gun owners as guaranteed by the Second Amendment.”

• Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-2nd District

“This must continue to remain our mission — to protect our citizens and seek and rectify the root causes of these evil acts, rather than focusing on means by which they are accomplished.”

• Rep. Walter Jones, R-3rd District

“As the funerals begin … for those killed [Dec. 14], Congressman Jones feels that there will be plenty of time to argue the politics and constitutionality of gun laws, but right now we need to stay focused on keeping those affected by this tragedy in our thoughts and prayers.”

• Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-5th District

“In the wake of devastating tragedies, well-meaning people always feel compelled to do something. But whatever we do must not usurp the deliberative process put in place by our founders of subvert our Constitution,” Foxx said. “We don’t weigh in on hypothetical legislation, but the Congresswoman’s support for the Second Amendment is well-documented,” spokeswoman Erika Perryman added.

• Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-7th District

McIntyre gave the following response to WRAL:

“Our nation needs to have a national dialogue to discuss the culture of violence that has become so prevalent on our society and whether we are doing all we can to protect our citizens while also protecting our 2nd Amendment rights.”

• Rep.-elect Robert Pittenger, R-9th District

“Representative-elect Pittenger understands these are complex issues with no easy answers,” spokesman Brian Mullis said. “He intends to fully explore options to address the problem.”

• Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-10th District

“Let’s respect the families and give them time to grieve before jumping into heated political debates.”

• Rep.-elect Mark Meadows-R-11th District

Meadows did not respond to phone or email messages.

Arming teachers

While Obama is trying to convince Congress the latest elementary school massacre is evidence that a crackdown on guns is essential, the president of Grassroots North Carolina argues the shooting highlights the need for making them more available, especially to teachers.

GRNC President Paul Valone argues that the teachers should have had something other than their bodies to put between the gunman and their students.

School shootings have increased fivefold since the Gun-Free School Zones Act passed in 1996, Valone said.

When Congress passed the law — which prohibited guns within 1,000 feet of a school — “it created an awareness that these were areas where people were disarmed,” Valone said. “Essentially what they did was create kill zones, which attract violent predators.”

As soon as the General Assembly convenes Jan. 9, he said his group will push for legislation enabling teachers and other concealed handgun permit-holders to protect students on the state’s campuses.

To support his campaign, Valone points to the research of John Lott, author of More Guns, Less Crime, which shows that multiple-victim public shootings are much less likely to happen in places where people are allowed to carry concealed handguns.

Sara Burrows is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.