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Political Notebook: Dems call for federal, state gun control laws

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In response to two recent mass shootings, the North Carolina Democratic Party blasted U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., for refusing to take legislative action to reform gun laws.

A news release from the state party says people’s concerns are “falling on deaf ears because Senator Tillis is beholden to the gun lobby” which “spent $1.6 million during the first half of the year lobbying members of the House and Senate against laws that would enact stricter background checks for people looking to buy guns”

The party cited a CNBC report that claimed Tillis received $2,450 from the National Rifle Association’s political action committee.

State Democrats are also criticizing North Carolina legislative leaders.

“Democratic lawmakers have proposed over a dozen gun safety bills since 2013,” an N.C. Democratic Party news release states. “Common-sense proposals have been ignored and rejected by Republican lawmakers who are unwilling to have an honest conversation on gun reform.”

Both party officials and Gov. Roy Cooper called on the Republican-majority General Assembly to consider two pieces of gun legislation, House Bill 454 and House Bill 86.

HB 86 would require all gun owners to purchase firearm liability insurance, ban the sale or possession of bump stocks and trigger cranks, raise the age to purchase firearms deemed “assault weapons” from 18 to 21 and require permits for the purchase of long guns in addition to handguns.

“Commonsense gun reform should not be about party or politics. We have a moral imperative to act when faced with a crisis of this magnitude,” N.C. Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin said in a statement. “Republican lawmakers cannot continue to offer hollow thoughts and prayers while failing to take action and continuing to support a president who emboldens white supremacy and racist attacks. It’s time for N.C. lawmakers to take up HB 454 and HB 86 and enact commonsense gun reform in our state.”

Forest raises ‘red flag’ over due process

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, a Republican challenging Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper in 2020, has expressed concern over a growing call for red-flag laws that would allow authorities to seize guns and ammunition from people deemed to be at risk of harming themselves or others.

Red-flag laws establish a process for obtaining an extreme risk protection order that allows authorities to disarm people considered to be at risk of committing violent acts.

“While solutions to address the problem of mass murders in our country are way past due, I have yet to see a ‘red flag’ bill that adequately protects the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans,” Forest said in a Friday statement. “Instead, what we get are overly broad, undefined plans that could lead to government gun confiscation.”

Some civil liberties watchdogs say red-flag laws are subject to abuse because initial orders can be signed before respondents have the opportunity to challenge claims made against them. Seizing people’s guns when they haven’t been convicted or even charged with a crime could pose due process issues.

“We’d be better served as a nation by addressing the root causes that are driving people to violence — the breakdown of the family, mental illness, social isolation and the refusal to recognize the dignity of human life,” Forest said. “This is hard, much harder than scoring political points. But this kind of approach will be the most effective in solving a defining issue of our generation.”

Cooper pushes GOP for budget negotiations

Gov. Roy Cooper and House Democrats are urging Republican leaders to come to the table and work through negotiations for the state budget.

It’s been more than a month since Cooper and his party presented a detailed budget compromise that would close the health care coverage gap, raise teacher pay, cut taxes for people and guarantee school construction, the governor’s office said.

“We are committed to sustaining Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of the state budget,” reads a letter to Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore signed by 51 legislative Democrats. “The votes are not there to override and staying in session for weeks waiting for Democrats to miss votes because of illness or family and work obligations is a waste of taxpayer dollars and disrespectful to the voters who elected Governor Cooper and his more balanced General Assembly.”

Republican leaders have not presented a counteroffer, the governor’s office contends.

Cooper also signed House Bills 391 and 760 as well as Senate Bill 590 into law on Friday. Visit www.ncleg.gov/Legislation for more information on each bill.

Republicans: State surplus nears $900M

The N.C. Republican Party on Aug. 7 cited a memo from the General Assembly’s nonpartisan Fiscal Research Division that the North Carolina budget surplus was revised upward to $896 million for the 2018-19 fiscal year.

N.C. Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown, R-Onslow, told the Carolina Journal that personal income-tax payments were $150 million over expectations and sales tax collections were $74 million over what was expected.

The NCGOP said negotiations over the state’s budget remain at an impasse.

Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the budget in June, demanding that any budget deal should include Medicaid expansion.

“Last year, Cooper predicted a $600 million shortfall from this budget,” NCGOP spokesman Jeff Hauser said. “With a surplus of $896 million, Cooper was off by nearly $1.5 billion and is determined to hold North Carolina’s budget hostage with his Medicaid expansion ultimatum. Cooper needs to defend his budget in public, not at invite-only photo-op roundtables, or stop holding up teacher and state employee pay raises, education funding and rape kit backlog funding at the behest of his campaign donors.”

POLITICAL NOTEBOOK is a weekly roundup of local and state political news from The Wilson Times’ reporting staff. Send tips and comments to editor@wilsontimes.com.

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