Cooper asks church members to take more active role in preventing violence

tmcdonald@newsobserver.comJune 8, 2013 

— North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper encouraged churches to take a more active role in preventing violence by mentoring, tutoring, volunteering and supporting legislation during a Saturday conference on violence and the community.

Cooper was one of three speakers at the White Memorial Presbyterian Church’s “theological response” to violence, mental health, community and policy.

The half-day conference at the church’s fellowship hall just off Oberlin Road was organized because of the Dec. 14 school shootings at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Conn., where Adam Lanza, 20, fatally shot 20 children and six adults before killing himself with a gunshot to the head.

“We were all incredibly affected,” said Cooper, who serves as a church school teacher and deacon at White Memorial. “It was almost incomprehensible.”

Cooper’s nearly 45-minute speech ran the gamut of violent crime in North Carolina and the rest of the country: mass shootings, school safety, domestic violence, rape and murder, gun violence, mental health and economic disparity.

He asked the group of about 50 to advocate for guns to be taken out of the hands of the mentally ill, background checks for firearm sales, affordable health care, expanded use of technology to fight crime, good jobs and quality education.

“We each have to find our role,” he said. “We each have to find our calling. We have to decide which of these issues we can find common ground and move forward on.”

Cooper said each year since he has been elected there have been over 100 homicide victims of domestic violence in this state.

Over the past 15 years, public officials have taken the crime much more seriously by creating awareness, enacting stronger laws and developing resources that include shelters for battered women and children, support in the courts, substance abuse treatment and economic help.

“Go to domestic violence shelters and take action,” he said.

He told the group about the state’s address confidentiality program, which allows a battered spouse or partner to not share their address with the public when they sign up for utility services, pay their taxes or vote.

Cooper said a batterer searching for a fleeing ex-partner might find the person’s name during a public records search, but the address will be listed as the state attorney general’s office.

“It provides a barrier,” he said. “Right now there are over 900 people in the program.”

Cooper lauded the U.S. Supreme Court decision last week to uphold the police practice of taking DNA samples from people who have been arrested but not convicted of a crime. The attorney general likened the practice to a “21st Century fingerprint.”

He said swabbing people for DNA samples in North Carolina after they have been arrested for certain felonies has resulted in police solving more than 2,200 crimes.

Cooper also asked the group to support stronger gun control legislation by supporting the measures that were part of the proposed assault weapons ban defeated earlier this year and become stronger advocates for mental health care.

“A 50-state study showed that homicide rates are correlated to quality inpatient services,” he said. “The better the inpatient care, the lower the homicide rate. The study also showed that a law enforcement officer is more likely to be killed by someone who is mentally ill than someone with prior arrests.”

Cooper said the biggest indicator of homicide in this country is economic disparity and that until the economic gap between rich and poor is reduced there will be more violence.

“What is our response to violence as Christians, Presbyterians, moms, dads and grandparents?” he asked the group. “What is our calling when we leave here?”

McDonald: 919-829-4533

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