Advocates for gun control in North Carolina greeted the president’s proposals for curbing gun violence as a good first shot, while gun-rights proponents called a misfire.
“What the president is doing is long overdue,” said Dr. Art Kamm, a former health care industry executive from Apex who started researching gun violence several years ago.
Kamm sees the issue as a major public health concern, especially for children, who are more likely to die from gunfire in the United States than in most other industrialized nations: “I’m glad to see this debate coming to light.”
Paul Valone, president of Grass Roots North Carolina, an all-volunteer Second-Amendment advocacy group, said that none of the president’s proposals will help the problem of gun violence and that their real purpose is ultimately to eliminate private gun ownership.
“The proposals they’re advocating have all been tried, and they’ve all failed,” Valone said.
Focusing on “so-called assault weapons,” he said, is just the start, and a ban on those would be followed by bans on other guns, and the confiscations of weapons people already own. The government would achieve that, Valone said, through the use of records created by requiring background checks on all private gun sales, another of the president’s proposals.
“It’s a de facto registration system,” Valone said, “and that’s a necessary prelude to confiscation.
“These proposals must die, and we’ll target any politician who supports them.”
Politicians showed no fear in expressing opinions on the plan. Republican members of the area’s delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives – Renee Ellmers of Dunn, Howard Coble of Greensboro and George Holding of Raleigh – said they didn’t support it, while two of the region’s Democrats – David Price of Chapel Hill and G.K. Butterfield of Wilson – strongly endorsed it.
Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat, said she’d consider the president’s proposals, but didn’t immediately praise them.
“We need to ensure that there are laws in place to prevent a tragedy like Sandy Hook from ever happening again. First and foremost, that will require a serious common-sense debate in Congress that looks at access to guns, access to mental health care and violent video games,” Hagan said in a statement.
“I am committed to working with my Republican and Democratic colleagues toward a comprehensive approach that ensures our communities are safe, while respecting the rights of responsible gun owners,” Hagan added. “I will look at any proposal with an open mind, including the president’s proposals to make schools safer and grant law enforcement additional tools to prosecute gun crime.”
The administration’s proposals were prompted by public response to the deaths of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., in December. Wake County school board Chairman Keith Sutton said the president’s proposals that dealt specifically with improving school safety, including federal funding for more school resource officers, held some appeal for him. Renee Schoof of the McClatchy Washington bureau contributed.