This story originally published online at NC Policy Watch.
Sharon Robinson’s son was shot to death while shopping at a convenience store.
The senseless murder robbed Robinson of the joy of shopping, She’s now afraid to enter the kinds of stores in which her son died.
“My husband, he goes to the convenience store, gas station, pumps gas for me. I no longer go,” Robinson said. “I can’t find … comfort in going there because I am afraid or even going to the mall; afraid of attending school activities now to watch my grandchildren play basketball.”
She said no family should have to live with the trauma associated with losing someone to gun violence.
“It’s hard for my grandchildren to think about going into shops,” Robinson said. “They [her grandchildren] don’t enjoy shopping anymore because they are afraid that someone will attack them.”
Robinson, a Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America NC volunteer, shared her story Monday as part of a panel of racial justice advocates, gun owners, survivors of gun violence and others who met virtually for a news conference to demand that North Carolina lawmakers scrap plans to repeal the state’s pistol purchase permitting system.
Repealing the law, the panel agreed, would strip sheriffs of the ability to conduct comprehensive background checks on handgun sales. It would also make it easier for people with dangerous backgrounds to purchase firearms, the panel said.
“The pistol purchase permitting system is saving lives throughout North Carolina by preventing homicides that disproportionally affect people of color,” said Chester B. Williams, chief empowerment officer at A Better Chance A Better Community (ABC2) in Halifax County.
Republican-backed House Bill 50 would repeal the state law that requires North Carolinians to obtain a permit from a county sheriff to purchase a handgun. No permit is needed for a rifle or shotgun. The state Senate passed Senate Bill 41 last week to repeal the permit requirement.
“Our Second Amendment rights are non-negotiable,” bill sponsor Sen. Danny Earl Britt, Jr. (R-Robeson) said. “These are commonsense laws to ensure that the rights of law-abiding citizens are not being infringed.”
Republicans contend the 100-year-old law is unfair to Blacks, citing statistics that show Black pistol purchasing permit applicants are rejected at three times the rate of white applicants in Wake County.
Aprie’la Warren, a first-year law student at UNC–Chapel Hill and ABC2 volunteer, said the current law helps to save the lives of people of color affected disproportionately by homicides.
How Republicans hope to remake the state’s gun laws this session
The proposals would repeal the pistol purchase permit, allow people to bring weapons into churches, and launch a voluntary firearm safe storage awareness initiative.
“This system is and will continue to ensure that residents across rural North Carolina are not increasingly being exposed to the consequences of gun violence,” Warren said.
SB 41 would also allow gun owners with concealed carry permits to legally carry firearms while attending religious services at a private school or some charter schools. House Bill 101 would also allow concealed carry permit holders to carry firearms while attending religious services at a private school or some charter schools.
Becky Ceartas, executive director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence (NCGV), said guns are the leading cost of death among children in the U.S.
“This is simply unacceptable and something we can and must do something about,” Ceartas said. “We need to strengthen our gun laws and not repeal or weaken them.”
Keeping the pistol purchasing permit system in place is critical because the federal background check system only applies if the buyer is purchasing a firearm from a federally licensed dealer, Ceartas said.
“That means that if you are a convicted felon, somebody experiencing a mental health crisis, a minor, domestic violence abuser, you can go to a gun show or online and buy a gun with no questions asked,” Ceartas said.
North Carolina’s pistol purchasing permit system closes that loophole, Ceartas said.
Johnny Shaw, a gun owner and retired Chatham County educator, said the current law does not interfere with gun owners’ rights.
“The states that have repealed this law have noticed a significant spike in the homicide rate and suicide rate by firearm,” Shaw said. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
After Missouri repealed its handgun purchaser licensing law in 2007, the state’s firearm homicide rate increased 47% from 2008 – 2016 and their firearm suicide rate increased 24% from 2008 – 2017, compared to the rate expected had they not repealed their law.
Gerald Givens, a member of the NCGV Board of Directors, said he’s lost seven members of his family to gun violence.
“Behind each statistic is a family, a community that forever grieves the loss of a loved one,” Givens said.