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NC Groups: Gun Violence an Everyday Concern

North Carolina has no restrictions on assault weapons and few rules on the open carrying of firearms.
North Carolina has no restrictions on assault weapons and few rules on the open carrying of firearms.
November 19, 2018

DURHAM, N.C. — Last month's deadly shooting at a North Carolina high school made the news, but some worry that the daily threat of gun violence isn't getting enough attention.

Gun deaths have risen steadily in the past few years in the state, reaching an all-time high of more than 1,400 lives lost to gun-related incidents in 2016 — the latest data available from the Centers for Disease Control.

As a new state director for the group MomsRising, Jessica Burroughs is advocating for tougher gun laws. She said both of her sons' schools have had "close calls" in the past year.

"My son's elementary school went into lockdown when a parent in a custody dispute came to the school,” Burroughs said. “And then, my middle schooler's track meet was interrupted when an armed man ran onto the field after a robbery nearby."

Experts say there's no one reason the numbers are rising, but they aren't waiting for the next school shooting to happen. Grassroots groups and those familiar with the issue from across the state are gathering to discuss such issues as mental health and school safety, with the goal of presenting legislation for the 2019 session.

The North Carolina Council of Churches is one of the organizations working to identify the best ways to change the conversation about gun violence prevention. Executive Director Jennifer Copeland said she’s concerned that much of the focus is on the high-profile shootings.

"Mass shootings are horrible and they capture the imagination of the general public, but on a day-to-day basis, that's not where the majority of the gun violence occurs,” Copeland said. “The majority of the gun violence occurs off of the record. It's not on the nightly news."

Copeland said she also worries that more people think they need to carry a gun in order to feel safe. One recent report showed the number of concealed-carry permits issued in North Carolina climbed from about 68,000 to about 107,000 between 2015 and 2016.

Burroughs and others are looking for reforms, like a ban on bump-stocks and military assault rifles. Most of all, she said, she wants her children to feel safe.

"And the day after the Pittsburgh shooting, as I was driving my kids to the synagogue for religious school, they were both crying and pleading with me to take them home, saying they did not feel safe at the synagogue,” Burroughs said. “And I told them that we must be strong and continue to practice our faith."

Antionette Kerr, Public News Service - NC