With the pain of last week’s mass shooting in Raleigh still new, North Carolina Democratic legislators pushed the Republican majority to consider gun safety laws and increase funding for mental health care.
Senate Democratic leader Dan Blue lives in the northeast Raleigh neighborhood where a shooter killed five people and injured two others outside their homes or along a nearby greenway trail.
“I’ve lived in the Hedingham community for over 30 years,” Blue said at a news conference Tuesday. “I never felt I would be unsafe in this community where we raised our kids until last week when we had a shooting that left five people dead.”
The 15-year-old suspect is hospitalized in critical condition.
“We always think, when we hear of the latest mass shooting on the news, that it can’t happen to us,” Blue said. “It can, and it did. Democrats have been calling for common sense gun safety measures for years. It’s time that these proposals finally be given serious consideration.”
Democrats for years have not been able to convince Republicans to consider stricter gun laws. Pro-gun activists and the National Rifle Association hold great sway in the legislature. The NRA Political Victory Fund is a reliable contributor to Republican politicians. In 2020, the NRA fund donated the maximum allowed to the campaigns of House Speaker Tim Moore, Senate leader Phil Berger, and the Republican candidates for governor and lieutenant governor, Dan Forest and Mark Robinson, Spectrum News reported.
The offices of Moore and Berger did not respond Tuesday afternoon to emails requesting comment.
Legislators have been unable to solve problems because issues become political, said House Democratic leader Robert Reives of Chatham County. The state needs bipartisan discussions on gun laws. “Imagine what could happen if we just sat down and talked,” he said. “Let’s take this off the table of politics and let’s be better.”
Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, a Wake County Democrat, listed the proposed gun laws he’s filed over the years that have not gotten committee hearings – bills to ban gun purchases by people on the FBI terrorist watch list, to ban bump stocks, and to raise the age to 21 for the purchase of assault weapons.
“Is now the time for a discussion of gun reform, or do we have to have another mass shooting?” he asked rhetorically.
State Rep. Marcia Morey, a Durham Democrat, has proposed three “red flag law” bills over the years that have never gotten committee hearings. Red flag laws allow people to ask a court to take someone’s firearms away for a period of time if they convince a judge that the person is a danger to themselves or others. Nineteen states have such laws.
Morey said she is working on a fourth red flag proposal and is talking to Republicans to incorporate their ideas.
“We must do something, or this carnage will continue,” she said.
Blue said the state needs to adequately fund mental health services for children and adults. He called for funding to allow schools to hire more psychologists. “Mental health is something we have the resources to do something about,” he said.
No motive in the Hedingham shootings has been publicly identified.
Blue said it was important to have both effective gun laws and enough school staff to help troubled students.