One year later, Sandy Hook shooting still spurs gun debate in NC
Posted December 12, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Saturday marks one year since a shooter killed 26 people – 20 children and six adults – at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.
The tragedy tore open wounds far beyond Connecticut. It spurred Kaaren Haldeman of Durham to join the national nonprofit, Moms Demand Action, to push for tougher gun laws.
“It hurt really deeply and affected me intensely. I have a child the exact same age as those children, and so I knew what those parents had stolen from them,” she said.
Haldeman says she was frustrated when momentum to expand firearm purchase background checks hit a wall in Washington, D.C.
“We’ve allowed too easy access to too many firearms for too many people for too long,” she said.
Not only did new regulations fail, gun sales boomed at places such as the Personal Defense and Handgun Safety Center in Raleigh.
“A lot of it was fear buying. A lot of it was concern with new legislation from Congress or pending legislation and concern their rights might be infringed,” said shop owner Mile Tilley.
Like many of his customers, Tilley was concerned and said he was convinced Congress was going to restrict those rights. When Congress didn’t, Tilley says, he was surprised.
“I think it was a lot of calls by their constituents who lobbied, wrote and emailed. I know a lot of our customers were voicing their concerns,” he said.
In Wake County, handgun permit requests soared to nearly 20,000 through October – a 35 percent increase over the same time last year, before Sandy Hook.
The Republican-led state legislature responded to that sentiment. They expanded conceal carry laws, allowing handguns in parks, restaurants and bars. Guns are now legal in locked vehicles on school grounds. Through October, records show conceal carry permit requests are up 47 percent in Wake County.
Haldeman says her group won't stop fighting for broader background checks and tougher gun restrictions.
“We disagree with this as a safety measure. We actually believe this makes us less safe,” she said.
Tilley eyes a different target.
“It doesn’t come down to the government. It comes down to each and every one of us, and we all need to be diligent,” he said. “We need to be responsible firearm owners, and we need to make sure people (who) need help get help.”