With gun bills stalled in General Assembly, Cooper pushes forward with safety initiatives

Posted August 12, 2019 2:29 p.m. EDT
Updated August 12, 2019 6:27 p.m. EDT

— Gov. Roy Cooper on Monday signed a directive to improve gun purchase background checks, better identify potential threats and respond to mass shootings more effectively.

"Recognizing that the odds are long for our current legislature to make real changes, today I signed an executive directive to my cabinet agencies to build on the work we’ve done to this point," Cooper said in a statement. "Wishing, praying and sending condolences alone just aren’t enough to prevent these tragedies. We have to take action."

Last week, the governor urged Republican legislative leaders to take action on two gun bills that have been stalled in the House since they were filed five months ago. One would expand permits and background checks to rifles and shotguns, set a three-day waiting period for firearm purchases, ban high-capacity magazines and prohibit anyone under 21 from buying an assault rifle. The other would create a so-called "red flag law" in North Carolina, which would allow a judge to temporarily take away someone's guns if they're found to be an imminent danger to themselves or others.

GOP leaders have expressed no interest in moving on either proposal, even in the wake of mass shootings in Texas, Ohio and California in recent weeks.

Cooper's directive calls on the State Bureau of Investigation to close information gaps where the state should be sharing information with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. The SBI has, since March 2018, added 284,289 individual instances of criminal convictions that had previously been unreported in the NICS database, he said.

"This improves the quality of every background check and helps keep guns out of the wrong hands," Cooper said.

The directive also includes the following provisions:

  • The SBI will provide behavioral threat assessment training to local law enforcement agencies to help them connect individuals identified as a potential risk to harming others with supportive community services.
  • The SBI will increase the North Carolina Information Sharing and Analysis Center’s outreach to businesses and community groups to build awareness of domestic terrorism indicators.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services will promote safe storage of personal firearms. Firearms are the third-leading cause of death for North Carolina children, according to federal authorities.
  • DHHS and the state Division of Emergency Management will develop guidance for local governments to help share information and reunite loved ones in the wake of a mass shooting or other major incident.
  • DHHS will convene a coalition of suicide prevention stakeholders to update the state’s Suicide Prevention Plan. Nearly 57 percent of all suicide deaths in the state involve firearms, authorities said.

"This directive includes important measures to help prevent and respond to the senseless, preventable deaths and injuries from firearms in North Carolina," Becky Ceartas, executive director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, said in a statement.

"Every year, dozens of North Carolina children and youth die from firearm-related injuries, and hundreds are seriously injured," Michelle Hughes, executive director of NC Child, said in a statement. "These injuries and deaths are not only tragic and heartbreaking, they are completely preventable. Our state’s elected officials must do more to protect children from firearms."