Mayors group focuses gun debate on domestic violence, background checks

kpoe@newsobserver.comApril 4, 2013 

— Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a national campaign for tighter gun regulations, is highlighting the connection between guns and domestic violence with a new television advertisement and a series of events in about a dozen communities across the country Wednesday, including Cary.

Many women’s lives could be saved by requiring all gun purchasers to pass a background check, said Kit Gruelle, who has done advocacy work for domestic violence victims in North Carolina for almost 30 years. Gruelle spoke at an event organized by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of more than 800 mayors that supports tightening gun regulations.

“We fail to take seriously the dangers that women face, the danger women and children face, the danger that the community faces,” Gruelle said. “We need to see these crimes for what they are, and they are preventable.”

Licensed gun sellers, which include typical brick-and-mortar gun shops, require all patrons to pass background checks to buy a firearm. But federal law does not require background checks for “private sales,” which often include sales at gun shows or through the Internet.

An Elon University poll done in February found that 93 percent of North Carolina residents support requiring a background check for anyone buying a gun. The Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013, introduced to the U.S. Senate in March, would require background checks for all gun purchasers.

Many women have protective orders against their abusers, something that would turn up in a background check and prevent them from buying a gun, Gruelle said.

In states where a background check is required for every handgun sale, 38 percent fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Morrisville Mayor Jackie Holcombe said she’ll never forget hearing about the shooting death of Kathleen Ann Bertram, a 41-year-old Cary resident, by her ex-husband at Cameron Village in September.

“We think of Cary as a very safe community, we think of Morrisville as a very safe community,” Holcombe said. “But she was a Cary mom and a Cary resident.”

Holcombe has been a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns for about a year. Mayors Nancy McFarlane of Raleigh, Bill Bell of Durham, Mark Kleinschmidt of Chapel Hill and Mark Chilton of Carrboro are also members.

“We’ve talked about violence against women for years, and it’s time to do something about it,” Holcombe said. “The emphasis right now is on universal background checks, especially with the overwhelming support.”

In 2011, 106 homicides in North Carolina were related to domestic violence, according to a report by the state Department of Justice, although the department did not release data on how those murders were committed.

Poe: 919-836-4918

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