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In the wake of Parkland, NC's gun control plans remain unclear

Protesters attend a rally at the Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to demand government action on firearms, on Feb. 17, 2018. Their call to action is a response the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. (Mike Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS)

Florida's Senate passed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act Monday, which would raise the age to purchase a firearm to 21. 

The bill would enforce a three-day waiting period for most gun purchases and ban the sale and possession of bump stocks. It will now go to the House for a vote and possible amendments.

N.C. Rep. Graig Meyer, D-Orange, said he doesn’t believe new gun safety laws will come out of North Carolina any time soon.

“I think that for right now, we’re not likely to see any significant changes because the Republican majority has pushed the loosening of gun laws about as much as they can,” Meyer said.

Becky Ceartas, the executive director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, said the level of national response to Parkland encourages her that change is possible.

“Since Parkland I think that a lot of people who have been in support of common sense gun reform are now speaking out for it,” Ceartas said.

Meyer said he has heard more from North Carolinians about gun reform recently.

“It’s something that my constituents are bringing up on an almost daily basis,” Meyer said.

For 2017, North Carolina received a D- on the gun law scorecard created by Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which compares the strength of state gun laws with rates of gun death and injury.

North Carolina’s grade is actually average for the country, according to Ari Freilich, a staff attorney at the law center. He said about half of the country gets an F.

“North Carolina’s a closely divided state on party grounds, but I think there’s a lot of consensus that more needs to be done,” Freilich said.

According to a Gallup report, 59 percent of U.S. adults are dissatisfied with the nation's gun laws. Dissatisfaction has risen 5 percentage points from 2017 and is close to Gallup's 18-year high of 62 percent, recorded in 2016.

Responses by North Carolinians to Parkland has varied widely – from calls to arm teachers to demands for reforms similar to those introduced in Florida.

Paul Valone, the president for Grass Roots North Carolina, a gun rights organization, said attempts to restrict gun ownership and access are not the answer.

“This is not a gun control issue. This is a gun safety issue,” Valone said.

Valone, who supports arming volunteer, trained teachers and providing schools with more armed officers, said stricter gun laws would threaten the safety of citizens and schools.

“The fact is that we have been unwilling to provide security for schools, and now you’re seeing violent sociopaths taking advantage of that,” he said.  

For Ceartas, the goal is to keep in place the gun reforms North Carolina has so far passed and promote further “common sense” gun laws.

So far, North Carolina has taken little action in either direction, and the N.C. General Assembly won’t go into another session until May.

A recent article from The News & Observer reported North Carolina would be one of the last states to pass stricter gun laws. Freilich disagreed and said the state has shown before that it can find middle ground.

He said Gov. Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein have made it clear gun reform in North Carolina is an important issue.

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Freilich said the movement for gun reform is being driven by young people who have grown up in the Parkland generation, where mass shootings have become increasingly lethal and routine, and there has been inaction to the every day gun violence.

“North Carolina’s a state where, especially because of universities like UNC, young people have a real voice in that state and are political forces to be reckoned with," he said. "And I don’t think that should be underestimated."