Gov. Roy Cooper on Monday, Aug. 12, signed a new gun safety Executive Directive and updated the public on recent action taken to strengthen firearm purchase background checks. Cooper shared the information at the Department of Public Safety’s School Safety Summit in Greensboro.
In March 2018, Cooper directed the State Bureau of Investigation to undertake a comprehensive inventory of the quality of information North Carolina shares with the federal background check system known as National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Today, Cooper announced that as a result of that work, 284,289 individual instances of criminal convictions that had previously been unreported in the NICS database have now been added.
“I am pleased to report that in North Carolina over the last 14 months, more than 284,000 convictions have been added to the federal background check system,” said Cooper. “This improves the quality of every background check and helps keep guns out of the wrong hands.”
Cooper also shared information about the gun safety Executive Directive he signed today. The directive requires state agencies to take increased action on closing crime reporting gaps between state and federal agencies, and expands firearm safety education.
“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,” added Cooper. “Wishing, praying and sending condolences alone just aren’t enough to prevent these tragedies. We have to take action.”
The SBI is directed to continue the work begun by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System Working Group to close information gaps where the state should be sharing information with NICS. Convened by Cooper in 2018, the working group identified 284,289 individual instances of criminal convictions that went unreported in the NICS database. Identifying and rectifying these gaps strengthens the safety net provided by firearm background checks.
The SBI will also provide Behavioral Threat Assessment training to local law enforcement agencies to help local law enforcement connect these 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 in order to build community awareness of domestic terrorism indicators.
The Improving Public Health and Incident Response directive orders the Department of Health and Human Services to promote safe storage of personal firearms.
DHHS and the 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 also convene a coalition of suicide prevention stakeholders to update the state’s Suicide Prevention Plan.
Last week, Cooper called on the General Assembly to take action on two key public safety bills HB 86 and HB 454.
HB 86, the “Gun Violence Prevention Act,” includes several provisions to improve background checks and encourage safe and responsible gun ownership. HB 454, “Allow ERPOs to Save Lives & Prevent Suicides,” would create Extreme Risk Protection Orders, sometimes called a red flag law, and authorize family members and law enforcement to petition a court to restrict an individual’s access to firearms if there is evidence that person poses a danger to themselves or others. Fifteen states have already enacted this type of law.
Both HB 86 and HB 454 have been referred to the House Judiciary Committee. Neither bill has had a hearing.
There have been more than one mass shooting a day in 2019, including one at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte in April 2019 that left two dead and four wounded.
On average, 1,113 North Carolinians per year are killed by firearms, and a person is killed by a gun every seven hours in the state.
Firearms are the third-leading cause of death for North Carolina children, and in just two years, at least 672 children and teenagers in North Carolina visited a hospital for a firearm-related injury.
The annual cost of gun violence in North Carolina is $7.4 billion and $754 per resident.
Suicide is the leading cause of firearm-related deaths in North Carolina, and nearly 57 percent of all suicide deaths in the state involve firearms.
Sixty-one percent of NC’s intimate-partner homicides involve a gun, and abused women are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser has a firearm.
What follows are comments from other state officials on the governor’s executive directve.
“North Carolinians Against Gun Violence applauds Governor Cooper for taking real steps to address our gun violence epidemic in its various forms. This directive includes important measures to help prevent and respond to the senseless, preventable deaths and injuries from firearms in North Carolina,” said Becky Ceartas, executive director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence
“The Executive Directive Gov. Cooper issued today, which will strengthen background checks and enhance firearm safety, contains meaningful, common sense reforms that will help protect families and communities in our state,” said Beth Messersmith, senior North Carolina campaign director for MomsRising, which has more than a million members nationwide and 47,000 here in North Carolina. “At a time when too many lawmakers kowtow to the gun lobby, North Carolinians are fortunate to have a governor who understands the imperative to protect public safety. We are especially pleased that his Executive Order will build community awareness of domestic terrorism indicators, at this time when the epidemics of gun violence and hate are taking so many lives. This adds to Gov. Cooper’s already impressive list of actions that are making North Carolina families safer, healthier, and more secure.”
“The North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence is grateful to Governor Cooper for his leadership in the effort to strengthen firearm safety measures and eliminate senseless gun violence in North Carolina. Domestic violence victims are five times more likely to be killed when an abuser possesses a firearm, and gaps in our current reporting systems mean that too often abusers continue to possess firearms when it is illegal for them to do so. The Governor’s Directive issued today is a good step toward closing those gaps and making North Carolina a safer place,” said Sherry Honeycutt Everett, legal and policy director, North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence
“The Governor’s focus on common-sense firearm safety measures can help protect our children. We know that unlocked guns in the home increase the risk of children being injured by a gun. Storing firearms safely, working to reduce suicides, and strengthening background checks are all examples of important steps to protect children, families and communities,” said Dr. Susan Mims, MPH, president, North Carolina Pediatric Society
“Every year, dozens of North Carolina children and youth die from firearm-related injuries, and hundreds are seriously injured. 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, and we are grateful for Governor Cooper’s leadership to strengthen firearm safety policies within his administration,” said Michelle Hughes, executive director, NC Child.
“The Old Testament prophets and the New Testament Gospels remind us not to put our trust in false idols. In many cases, guns have become false idols worshiped in pursuit of safety, while statistics bear out the truth that more guns mean more gun deaths. The N.C. Council of Churches once again calls on our lawmakers to make some laws that protect us from gun violence,” said Jennifer Copeland, executive director, North Carolina Council of Churches
“Everyone, including students, teachers, administrators, and school support personnel, deserve to be safe when in school. We need meaningful action to keep our schools safe, and these common-sense regulations directly address what we know about gun violence in America’s schools and will help prevent it from occurring in the first place. We encourage the General Assembly to take up these bills as soon as possible,” said Mark Jewell, president, North Carolina Association of Educators.
Ford Porter works in Gov. Roy Cooper’s press office.