Misty Uribe, a 29-year-old resident of Mooresville and the mother of three young children, grew up with guns in her house and didn’t know it. Her father had multiple guns, but he kept them locked away. She didn’t know he owned guns until she was a senior in high school.
That’s the way she wishes it was for all children. If a parent wants to keep a gun, fine, but keep it properly. That’s not what happened when her son was playing cops and robbers with children in the neighborhood. An 8-year-old boy went into a shed, found a loaded rifle and shot an 11-year-old in the face.
The child, miraculously, survived. The bullet went through his cheek without fatal damage. But the incident scared Uribe enough that she embarked on a mission without regard to its hopelessness. She committed to do something about guns in a state led by lawmakers who think more guns in more places with fewer rules is all for the better.
“My goal is to see parents lock up their guns,” says Uribe. She’s joined the North Carolina Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. It’s part of a national group formed with support from former New York Mayor Micheal Bloomberg following the December 2012 slaughter of 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
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“I’m new to all this,” says Uribe. “But to me, it’s just common sense.”
Unfortunately, common sense has nothing to do with guns in the United States. The nation has almost as many guns as people. There are four times more federally licensed firearms dealers and pawnbrokers in the United States than there are places to buy a McDonald’s hamburger. In 2013, 33,836 people in the United States died from gunshots, including suicides. Thirty-seven of the victims were under 5 years old. The U.S. is the only country that responds to mass murders by buying more guns and loosening guns laws.
For Exhibit A, look to North Carolina. After moving in recent years to allow guns in parks, in cars on school grounds and restaurants that serve alcohol, the General Assembly is considering a bill that strips away a key safeguard against the wrong people getting guns. The bill, sponsored by Jacqueline Schaffer, a Charlotte Republican, would end sheriffs’ issuing of pistol permits. A provision that barred doctors from asking their patients whether they owned guns was taken out. But an amendment was added allowing state lawmakers and staff to carry guns in the Legislative Building. Talk about heated debate.
The bill’s supporters say it will require more gun buyers to submit to a National Instant Criminal Background Check, which they can avoid if they hold a five-year pistol permit issued by their sheriff. But national background checks are required only for purchases from federally licensed dealers. The pistol permits cover guns from all sources, including private sellers, and sheriffs are more likely to know or detect people who should not be allowed to carry a pistol.
Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison says his department has so far this year rejected 716 of 10,826 requests for pistol permits. Some of those rejected had pending court dates, a record of involuntary confinement for mental issues and other legal issues that would not show up on a criminal history check.
When Missouri repealed its permit-to-purchase handgun law in 2007, the state’s murder rate jumped 25 percent, according to a study from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. “This study provides compelling confirmation that weaknesses in firearm laws lead to deaths from gun violence,” said Daniel Webster, the study’s lead author.
On Tuesday, about three dozen women showed up at the state legislative building to oppose Schaffer’s bill, HB 562. The women wore orange, the color hunters use to avoid being accidentally shot. Some legislators wore orange in solidarity with them.
Members of the moms group know there’s no repealing the Second Amendment. But they think there’s room to make a difference in the margins. One step is to lobby for laws promoting the safe storage of guns. Four children have already been accidentally shot in North Carolina this year. Another is to protect laws already on the books, such as the sheriffs’ review of pistol permit requests. .
Sarah Green, 36, of Winston-Salem, is a mother of three and the volunteer leader of the North Carolina chapter of the moms group. She said the national organization has responded to the inability to get gun control laws through Congress by focusing on the states. Her hope is that Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America can attain the same level of influence achieved by Moms Against Drunk Driving. Green’s group recently posted an interactive map of unintentional shootings involving a person 17 or under.
“We don’t feel like it’s a futile effort, but we realize this is a marathon, not a sprint,” Green says. “We’re committed. We’re parents. The gun lobby fears losing their guns. We fear losing our children.”
Editorial page editor Ned Barnett can be reached at 919-829-4512, or firstname.lastname@example.org