State Politics

Raise the age to buy assault weapons, Roy Cooper says

Gov. Roy Cooper proposed age restrictions on assault weapon purchases and expanded background checks Wednesday, as students nationwide walked out of schools to protest gun violence.

In a message posted on the blogging platform Medium, Cooper also proposed banning "bump stocks," devices that make semi-automatic weapons fire faster. The Democratic governor also wants a law allowing "extreme risk protection orders," which open a way for people to ask courts to take guns temporarily from people who present a danger to themselves or others.

"Democrats and Republicans across the country have found common ground in supporting these protection orders, and we can too," Cooper wrote.

Implementing some of Cooper's plan will be up to the Republican-controlled legislature, which in recent years has been more likely to consider expanding gun access than restricting it.

The legal age to purchase an assault weapon should be raised from 18 to 21, Cooper wrote. The minimum age to buy other rifles and shotguns would continue to be 18.

People who buy assault weapons should be required to get the same approvals as people who purchase handguns, the governor said — a federal background check and an OK from the sheriff.

Increasing the minimum age for assault weapon purchases to 21 and a bump stock ban were elements of the legislation Florida passed last week. The shooting deaths of 17 people in a Parkland, Florida, high school last month prompted renewed interest in stricter gun laws.

Bump stocks were used by the gunman in the Las Vegas concert shooting in October. Talk in Congress of banning bump stocks stalled last year, but President Donald Trump's administration is moving forward this week with a ban.

In North Carolina, state House Speaker Tim Moore has formed a school safety committee charged with recommending ways to protect schools. Some school districts are considering posting armed volunteers with firearms experience at schools.

Rep. John Torbett, a co-chairman of the school safety committee, said guns are one of the topics that will be discussed, along with mental health and making buildings safer with technology.

Of Cooper's ideas, the Gaston County Repubilcan said, "All that will be discussed and deliberated."

Progress NC Action, a liberal political organization, released results of a poll it commissioned finding that 84 percent of voters said preventing people with histories of domestic violence or mental illness from buying a gun would make schools safer. More than half of the respondents said a variety of strategies, such as banning bump stocks, raising the minimum age to buy rifles and shotguns from 18 to 21, and imposing 'gun violence restraining orders' would make schools safer.

Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning firm, conducted the poll from Feb. 23-25. Of the 607 voters polled, 42 percent were Democrats, 33 percent were Republicans, and 25 percent were independent.

Lynn Bonner: 919-829-4821; @Lynn_Bonner
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