Cooper strength­ens gun buy­ers’ back­ground checks

The Charlotte Observer - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAWN BAUM­GART­NER VAUGHAN [email protected]­sob­server.com

N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper said Mon­day that he signed an ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tive meant to strengthen back­ground checks for gun buy­ers.

Cooper said he signed the di­rec­tive to his cabi­net agen­cies to “build on the work we are al­ready do­ing” around gun vi­o­lence and safety.

“A back­ground check is only as good as the in­for­ma­tion in the data­base,” Cooper told hun­dreds of safety and ed­u­ca­tion lead­ers at the De­part­ment of Public Safety’s Back To School Safety Sum­mit on Mon­day af­ter­noon at UNC Greensboro.

“Over the last 14 months, more than 284,000 con­vic­tions have been added to the fed­eral back­ground check sys­tem,” Cooper said. Those were added by the Na­tional In­stant Crim­i­nal Back­ground Check Sys­tem work­ing group, which Cooper con­vened last year to iden­tify and fix gaps in firearm back­ground checks. The State Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion was di­rected to lead the work.

Cooper ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment in Repub­li­can lead­ers not want­ing to take up two House bills — HB 86, which in­cludes sev­eral gun reg­u­la­tions, and HB 454, de­scribed as a “red flag” bill.

Rep. Mar­cia Morey, a pri­mary spon­sor of HB 454, said last week it would al­low fam­ily mem­bers or law en­force­ment to pe­ti­tion a judge for what is known as an ex­treme risk pro­tec­tion or­der, which would re­strict a per­son’s ac­cess to firearms if there was ev­i­dence of them pos­ing dan­ger to them­selves or oth­ers.

Last week, House Democrats filed two dis­charge pe­ti­tions in an at­tempt to move those two gun reg­u­la­tion bills from com­mit­tee to the House floor for de­bate. So far that has been un­suc­cess­ful, as has an­other dis­charge pe­ti­tion filed for HB 312, the Hate Crimes Pre­ven­tion

Act, which would make hate crimes a felony and re­quire train­ing for law en­force­ment and pros­e­cu­tors.

Mandy Co­hen, sec­re­tary of the De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices, said Mon­day that gun vi­o­lence is a public health prob­lem.

The ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tive also tells:

● SBI to give lo­cal law A en­force­ment agen­cies Be­hav­ioral Threat As­sess­ment train­ing.

● SBI to step up the A North Carolina In­for­ma­tion Shar­ing and Anal­y­sis Cen­ter’s ef­fort to raise com­mu­nity aware­ness around “do­mes­tic ter­ror­ism in­di­ca­tors.”

● De­part­ment of Health A and Hu­man Ser­vices to ed­u­cate peo­ple about safely stor­ing guns.

● DHHS and the Di­vi­sion A of Emer­gency Man­age­ment will cre­ate guides for lo­cal gov­ern­ments to use af­ter mass shoot­ings to help them get in­for­ma­tion out and “re­unite loved ones.”

● DHHS to up­date the A state’s Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion Plan.

COOPER SAID MED­I­CAID EX­PAN­SION WOULD IN­CREASE AC­CESS TO MEN­TAL HEALTH CARE THAT SOME ELECTED OF­FI­CIALS HAVE CALLED FOR IN THE WAKE OF MASS SHOOT­INGS.

MEN­TAL HEALTH CARE AC­CESS

Cooper also said that Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion would in­crease ac­cess to men­tal health care that some elected of­fi­cials have called for in the wake of mass shoot­ings.

“I agree we need more men­tal health care, but let’s be care­ful not to stig­ma­tize men­tal ill­ness,” Cooper said.

“We need to keep guns from those who would use them to harm them­selves and oth­ers, and we need health care to be ac­ces­si­ble,” he said.

Co­hen said in a speech at the School Safety Sum­mit on Mon­day that she and fel­low physi­cians have made it clear they must ad­dress gun vi­o­lence as any other crisis, with re­search and ac­tion.

“I know this is­sue is per­sonal to all of us, and as I think about my 5year-old, who is start­ing kinder­garten in just two weeks, it is very per­sonal to me,” Co­hen said.

She also em­pha­sized that men­tal ill­ness should not be equated with vi­o­lence. Peo­ple with men­tal ill­ness are more likely to be vic­tims of vi­o­lence than per­pe­tra­tors, Co­hen said.

“We can cer­tainly do bet­ter on the ac­cess to treat­ment end,” she said.

STA­TUS OF STATE BUD­GET

The fis­cal year started in July, but the state govern­ment has yet to pass a bud­get.

Cooper ve­toed the con­fer­ence bud­get on June 28, and the Repub­li­can­led House has kept an over­ride vote on its cal­en­dar but has yet to call for it. A su­per­ma­jor­ity would be re­quired to over­ride the veto, mean­ing all Repub­li­cans plus seven Democrats. Cooper an­nounced a pro­posed bud­get com­pro­mise about a week af­ter his veto, but has not re­ceived a com­pro­mise of­fer in re­sponse from Repub­li­can lead­er­ship.

Bud­get ne­go­ti­a­tions are stalled out over Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion. Cooper wants to dis­cuss it as part of bud­get ne­go­ti­a­tions, but Se­nate Repub­li­cans do not.

Last year’s bud­get has rolled over into the new year and some stop­gap mea­sures have been passed by the Gen­eral As­sem­bly.

GERRY BROOME AP

Gov. Roy Cooper signed an ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tive meant to strengthen back­ground checks for gun buy­ers.

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