Sometimes the news of the day begs for a broader discussion of important issues. That happened one day recently on an always polarizing topic.
Scrolling through Twitter, news websites and emails that day, it didn’t take long to identify a common thread among many of the breaking news stories – guns. That morning, we learned that a student at a high school in Albemarle near Charlotte shot a fellow student outside the school. The teenage shooter reportedly turned himself in to school officials immediately after the incident, while the victim sustained serious injuries but was expected to survive.
Also that day, a student was shot at school in Louisville, Ky. Back in North Carolina, a man was gunned down and killed at a home in downtown Wilmington.
Then news broke that the gun-rights group Grass Roots North Carolina wanted to ensure that concealed-carry permit holders would be allowed to bring their weapons into the N.C. State Fair. The event takes place this month in Raleigh and draws about a million visitors a year. The group contends that state law doesn’t prevent lawful gun owners from carrying on state property. But Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler and Gov. Pat McCrory have said they don’t want guns at the family affair. Troxler has urged fair-goers to leave their weapons in their cars.
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That story evoked strong responses on both sides of the gun debate, and the courts might ultimately decide whether guns should be permitted at the annual event at the N.C. State Fairgrounds.
Those who don’t want guns at the fair said they would boycott the event if guns were permitted because they wouldn’t feel safe bringing their families. “We don’t want to turn the fair into a wild wild west,” one poster wrote on newsobserver.com. “Thank you to Troxler for having some common sense.”
Those who support guns at the fair argued that the General Assembly’s recent expansion of where concealed handguns can be carried legally hasn’t led to more gun crimes or shootings and that preventing gun possession at the fair could embolden criminals there. “A gun is a tool,” another reader wrote. “It may not be the right tool for everybody, but please don’t try to impose your reservations on me or anyone else.”
With such strong opinions on both sides, guns are a staple of the political conversation, especially at election time. At the same time those stories were making headlines, Republican state Senate candidate Molotov Mitchell was promoting an upcoming “Bullets and Bourbon” campaign fundraiser. Guests at the event would get to fire AK-47s, AR-15s and other firearms. “Fun fact: every one of the firearms listed are banned in at least one other state … but not in NC!” the email from Mitchell’s campaign read. Other candidates – from congressional to local races – have held similar events in recent election cycles.
None of the news stories mentioned above are directly related to each other in any way, other than they were reported on the same day and were about guns. But taken together as a whole, perhaps, these stories say something about our society and our politics. This discussion isn’t going away any time soon.
Patrick Gannon is a syndicated columnist who writes about state government and politics.