Opinion

Is Roy Cooper vulnerable on his gun control agenda?

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, at least in the current political climate, is well positioned for reelection in 2020. However, a potential vulnerable policy area that is constantly overlooked by most is Cooper’s leftward lurch on gun-control.

After mass shootings dominated recent headlines, Cooper has rapidly moved to the left, embracing positions more aligned with an increasingly liberal Democrat Party and activists. While Cooper once received “A” ratings and financial support from the NRA, he now embraces more and more stringent gun-control measures. And while he is often quick to position himself with national Democrats on most issues, a gun-control agenda can easily place him out of step with millions of North Carolinians, one of the most rural states in our nation.

Cooper’s main proposal includes raising the age from 18 to 21 for the purchase of what some deem “assault rifles.” This proposal raises concerns about not only the Second Amendment, but also the Equal Protection Clause under the 14th Amendment. Such a law could prevent many adults under 21 from purchasing certain hunting rifles, and of course, even block men and women who serve in the military from purchasing many types of firearms.

Cooper wants to expand the state Jim Crow era pistol permit process to include semi-automatic rifles, despite laws already requiring federal background checks on firearms. Of late, Cooper likes to admonish his opponents in the legislature for passing a law when there is already a similar law in existence. He has cited redundant or similar laws for his reasoning in vetoing bills to expand enforcement of illegal immigration and the protection of babies who survive abortions. Yet, he conveniently ignores his own political advice on creating duplicate laws when it comes to firearms.

Cooper also supports broad “red flag laws,” or “extreme risk protection orders,” allowing firearms to be seized based on the recommendations from private citizens, potentially setting up scenarios where the right to due process under the U.S. Constitution is trampled. “Well, we call it gun-confiscation orders because it’s largely confiscating firearms for people without due process,” says Dudley Brown, president of the National Association for Gun Rights.

Finally, his support for firearm owners purchasing liability insurance is not only an odd requirement for a right enshrined in the Constitution, but places an undue burden on the poor.

Unfortunately for Second Amendment supporters, the General Assembly has done little to challenge Cooper on his gun control agenda, preferring to play defense instead of expanding an inherent right. By failing to scrap the pistol permit system or pass a constitutional carry bill, North Carolina has fallen behind many states when it comes to Second Amendment protections.

After the U.S. Constitution was ratified, Fisher Ames declared that “The rights of conscience, of bearing arms, of changing the government, are declared to be inherent in the people.” The North Carolina state constitution affirms the basic tenants of the Bill of Rights and the Second Amendment, that gun ownership and the right to bear arms are essential components of self-government.

There are nearly 100 million firearm owners in America. The overwhelming majority practice their constitutional rights in a safe and lawful manner. Less than a fifth of gun crimes are committed by individuals in possession of a legal firearm. It makes little sense for politicians, including the governor, to say that since we can’t control the lawbreakers, we will instead punish those that follow the law.

More importantly, the right to bear arms is an essential component of a free society and a continual reminder that the people are the masters and not merely the servants of government. This is a lesson that many politicians and some of the citizenry would do well to relearn.

Ray Nothstine is editor at the Civitas Institute in Raleigh.
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