'I've introduced for a fourth time a Red Flag Law.' NC Democrats aim for gun safety with bills

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Wednesday, March 8, 2023
NC Democrats aim for gun safety with several bills introduced
"It's really important that we keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have guns," one lawmaker said.

Rob Steele was vulnerable after finding out his fiancé was shot and killed in the Hedingham mass shooting on Oct. 13, 2022, in Raleigh.

Steele said he gave up his gun so he wouldn't be in a position to hurt himself or others.

"I knew that mentally, I was not going to be okay," Steele said. "I was going to be very depressed. I was going to be angry, and having that gun in my possession knowing what I was going to be going through was dangerous."

Steele red-flagged himself, which is what several North Carolina Democrats are pushing for in four gun safety bills, including House Bill 281.

"I introduced for the fourth time a Red Flag Law, which allows a judge to temporarily prohibit someone from possessing, having any guns, because there is a shown risk of suicide or homicide behavior," Rep. Marcia Morey (Durham) said. "It's been passed in almost 20 other states. We need to address it."

There's been seven mass shootings in North Carolina so far this year, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive.

More than 45,000 people died from firearm violence last year, half were deaths by suicide.

"It's really important that we keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have guns," Rep. Pricey Harrison (Guilford) said.

Young people are in the spotlight as guns are the leading cause of death for children and teens in North Carolina.

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"I had kids in court tell me, "I can get you a gun in five minutes and bring it into the courtroom," Morey said. "This issue has been pressing for decades, but the number of guns on our streets ... that exceeds the number of people, has just made the problem so much worse."

House Bill 284, which was also introduced by Morey, would allow law enforcement to destroy unclaimed or confiscated firearms after conviction of a certain offense, and firearms purchased by or voluntarily surrendered to law enforcement.

RELATED | North Carolina House votes to end pistol permit requirements

House Bill 283 and Senate Bill 210, also known as the "Gun Violence Prevention Act," would require purchase permits for rifles and assault weapons.

"The way young people get weapons is they're too young to purchase them, so what they're doing is they're stealing them from unlocked vehicles, or they are using often a gun in their own home that's not being stored," Sen. Natasha Marcus (Mecklenburg) said. "It's not locked up and they get access to those weapons. So our bill has some teeth in a safe storage provision."

SB210 has 18 parts which Marcus described as a "menu of good options," that includes a ban on bump stocks, ghost guns and assault weapons for anyone under 21.

"We see so often that young people are the ones who cannot control their rage ... that's motivating them to want to go and shoot people at their school, or in a movie theater, or anywhere else," Marcus said.

North Carolina Democrats hope the bills move forward but Marcus sees a lot of pushback in the Republican-led majority General Assembly following the House's recent repeal of the state's pistol purchase permit law.

"Unfortunately, we're on very different tracks," Marcus said. "Those of us who support the bill I filed want to see some common sense gun safety measures put into place that still respects Second Amendment rights but creates some safeguards."

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The Duke study includes data collected from 2017 to 2021.