NC lawmakers sidestep questions after mass shooting
Posted February 16, 2018 1:30 p.m. EST
Updated July 13, 2018 2:07 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — In the wake of Wednesday's shooting at a Florida high school that killed 17 people, the latest in a string of mass shootings, WRAL News contacted members of North Carolina's congressional delegation and state political leaders and put the following questions to them:
- What must be done to limit and prevent mass shootings?
- What does the (state/federal) government need to do to limit and prevent mass shootings?
- What are you personally doing to create solutions to this problem?
WRAL News first emailed the questions to lawmakers Thursday at noon and gave them 24 hours to answer.
For the most part, the politicians chose not to answer the questions, responding with statements containing general platitudes and partisan talking points on gun control, Second Amendment rights, mental illness and other issues instead of providing specific solutions.
WRAL News also checked the politicians' social media accounts to see what they were saying to constituents about the shooting.
Burr didn't respond to emails seeking a response, but his press secretary, Ben Khouri, released the following statement:
"Sen. Burr is grieving for the families of those whose lives were tragically cut short in this horrific event. He deeply believes we must prevent guns from getting into the hands of those seeking to do harm, but we must do so without violating the rights of law-abiding Americans. He has supported strengthening the National Instant Criminal Background Check System as well as numerous mental health bills during his time in Congress.
"Sen. Burr also supports and has voted for legislation to ensure that all appropriate records are in the system that our government uses to conduct federal background checks for people who are trying to purchase a gun. We must be able to efficiently and effectively screen would-be gun buyers for mental problems and criminal convictions. Sen. Burr has also voted for legislation to prevent terrorists from getting guns, while also making sure American citizens have a right to due process.
"Additionally, Sen. Burr understands the need to strengthen our mental health system. He voted for the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act in September 2015. This measure would reauthorize programs increasing awareness and prevention of early signs of mental health conditions."
"There are no words to describe the tragic attack on innocent high school students in Florida. Susan and I are praying for the victims, their families, first responders and the community. Now is the time for Congress to come together and discuss ways we can prevent this from happening again. We must ensure firearms are staying out of the wrong hands, and last year, I co-sponsored bipartisan legislation that would enhance compliance and accuracy of the background check system to keep firearms away from criminals."
Cooper didn't respond to emails seeking a response, but his office released a portion of his remarks Thursday to the North Carolina Healthcare Association that addressed the shooting:
"When will this country have had enough of this? 25 fatal school shootings since Columbine – and we all remember what happened at Columbine. In mass shootings from 2009 to 2016, 25 percent of the fatalities have been children. ... [W]e have an epidemic of deadly gun violence in this country. You see it in your emergency rooms too often.
"I’m wondering when elected leaders in Washington are going to quit talking about this and step up and do what we need to do. When are we going to have the courage to put in background checks that work? We need to do what we can to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and those who are dangerously mentally ill.
"We don’t know all of the facts yet of what happened, but should a killer like the one who’s described, with the background that so many people seem to know about, should that person be able to go in and buy a semiautomatic weapon? I think the answer to that is a clear no. And you’re talking about a farm boy who’s grown up around guns, who owns guns.
"You can take steps to protect the Second Amendment while still working to protect these kids and our country. So let’s think about that, too, as we go about our daily lives and as we think about the pain that these families are feeling and these communities are feeling. We’ve got to step up and we need to do the right thing. That was on my mind. I needed to say it."
1st District Congressman
"The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is the latest tragedy in a long line of senseless shootings, including 18 school shootings this year alone. Congress has watched the body count rise while doing nothing to address the scourge of gun violence in this country, other than by offering its thoughts and prayers to the suffering families and friends. Congress must finally act.
"Congress has the power to help prevent these tragedies. There are common-sense bills that exist, including bipartisan approaches to reduce gun violence in America. I call on the Republican majority to immediately bring gun violence prevention legislation to the House floor for a vote. The refusal of the Republican majority to act on gun violence prevention legislation is disturbing."
2nd District Congressman
"Having served as a United States Attorney, I have seen my share of violent crime. Mass shootings, especially at schools, are horrific. And the search to understand why people commit these types of crimes isn’t simple. As a sheriff, policeman, or law enforcement officer who deals with violent crimes will tell you, finding answers isn’t easy. I hope you will join me in keeping the victims, the families, and the children who attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in our prayers."
4th District Congressman
"There have been 376 mass-shootings in the United States since the beginning of last year, and in that time, the only bill passed by Congress and signed by the President was one making it easier for people with mental illnesses to purchase weapons. In the wake of attacks like those in Parkland, Las Vegas, Sandy Hook and so many others, many lawmakers flock to social media to offer their 'thoughts and prayers,' with no acknowledgment of their duty to act. The frequency of these attacks should teach us that thoughts and prayers are not enough. We must do more to protect our communities from the heartbreak and anguish created by gun violence.
"As a Vice Chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, I have helped develop numerous common-sense solutions that Republican leadership could put on the floor for a vote today. These include closing loopholes in the background check system, to keep guns out of the wrong hands, and getting weapons of mass killing and high-capacity magazines out of the streets. But as long as lawmakers are manipulated by the scare tactics of the firearm lobby, our children and neighbors will remain vulnerable to these horrific attacks."
His spokesman, Sawyer Hackett, also sent the following list of actions Price has taken in Congress on the issue since the beginning of last year:
- Original cosponsor of H. Res. 367, Establishing the Select Committee on Gun Violence Prevention
- Original cosponsor of H.R. 3947, the Automatic Gunfire Prevention Act.
- Cosponsor of H.R. 1478, the Gun Violence Research Act, which would amend the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 to eliminate the provision that refuses the Department of Health and Human Services from using funds to research gun control.
- Original cosponsor of H. Res. 380, Commemorating one year since the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, 2016.
- Cosponsor of H.R. 4240, the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act.
- Cosponsor of H.R. 2598, the Gun Violence Restraining Order Act of 2017.
- Led a letter with 121 other Members of Congress to House leadership opposing any riders to the finalized fiscal year 2018 appropriations package that would effectively restrict gun violence research.
- Co-lead on amendment to the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill to restrict the ability of firearm purchases for people who are on the terror watch list.
- Cosigned a letter to Secretary Mattis inquiring about the failure of the Air Force to submit Devin Kelley’s (Texas gunman who killed 26 people in a church) criminal record to the National Criminal Information Center database.
- As a Vice Chair to the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force (GVPTF), Mr. Price signed a letter to President Trump requesting that he meet with the congressional Task Force to discuss methods of ending mass gun violence in the United States.
- Cosigned a letter to President Trump urging him to instruct the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to issue a clarification that bump stocks should be considered prohibited accessories under the National Firearms Act.
6th District Congressman
"As we continue to learn more about the tragic act of evil that occurred yesterday, my heart breaks for the families of the Parkland community. Every child should feel safe in our schools and in our communities. I am alarmed the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was notified last year of the threat this deranged individual posed. I am also troubled that he was involved in a violent group that promotes hatred. Though we cannot legislate against the depravity of man, we must do everything to protect the innocent, while speaking against objectionable ideologies seeking to divide and destroy us from the inside. May God provide comfort to all the hurting families."
7th District Congressman
Rouzer didn't respond to emails seeking a response.
8th District Congressman
Hudson didn't respond to emails seeking a response, but his spokesman, Tatum Gibson, released the following statement:
"Addressing the root cause of violence in our society and improving our mental health system has been and will continue to be a priority. Rep. Hudson has supported efforts, including:
- Got the most transformational mental health reform in 50 years signed into law, which includes policies focused on intervention and prevention (part of 21st Century Cures which was signed into law).
- Require agencies to report all federally prohibited persons to NICS system (was in Hudson’s bill, H.R. 38).
- Provided resources and updated laws to expand access to mental health care.
- Provided more grant funding for training so teachers, EMS and others individuals can intervene before someone reaches a mental health crisis.
- Reauthorized programs that focus on helping treat children early on with severe emotional disturbances.
- Permanently authorized the VALOR initiative at the Department of Justice, which trains law enforcement on appropriate actions to take in an active shooter scenario."
9th District Congressman
"Nikolas Cruz passed a background check, an assault weapons ban was in effect at the time of Columbine, and the guns at Sandy Hook were stolen. Clearly, additional restrictions on our Second Amendment rights are not the answer. Personally, I am speaking out against the pervasive culture of violence in video games, movies, and music. We allow the media to feed our country a steady stream of glorified violence. We have officially removed prayer from schools, and we have become a society governed by relativism, and now we are dealing with the adverse consequences."
President Pro Tem, N.C. Senate
Berger didn't respond to emails seeking a response, but his spokeswoman, Amy Auth, released the following statement:
"Our hearts go out to all of the families who lost loved ones during yesterday’s senseless tragedy in Florida, and it would be wrong to politicize this tragedy."
Speaker, N.C. House
Moore didn't respond to emails seeking a response, but his spokesman, Joseph Kyzer, released the following statement:
"Next week, Speaker Moore will appoint a bipartisan House Select Committee on School Safety to examine the current safety standards and procedures throughout North Carolina’s elementary, middle and high schools and make recommendations on statutory and non-statutory changes to ensure the highest level of safety for North Carolina students, teachers and other school personnel.
"The House Select Committee on School Safety will seek information from experts in the fields of education, law enforcement, mental health and crisis management and consult with local governments and school systems on procedures that have proven effective in ensuring safety in our schools.
"The Speaker plans to announce appointments to the House Select Committee on School Safety at a press conference on Tuesday, February 20, at 4 p.m. in the Cleveland County government offices in Shelby."