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Elected officials react to UNC shooting, state of gun legislation


Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) speaks to reporters on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020.

N.C. Rep. Renée Price's (D-Orange, Caswell) reaction to the Aug. 28 shooting on UNC’s campus was one of horror and numbness.

“Another shooting, another killing, again,” she said. “Because we have too many guns, weapons out in the open.”

She said that while she understands Second Amendment rights, she also realizes that it was written over 200 years ago and that we are living in a different society now.

The U.S. has seen shootings in college campuses, elementary schools, churches, synagogues and shopping malls, Robert Orr, an attorney and retired justice from the N.C. Supreme Court, said.

“There literally is no place where a citizen can really feel safe,” he said.

Upon hearing the news of the shooting, Orr said he was concerned about the students on campus and his grandchildren who attend school in Chapel Hill.

He thinks there are a variety of barriers that should be put in place to restrict access to firearms, he said. Orr said that he is continually disheartened by the influence of the National Rifle Association and the gun lobby on elected officials.

Gun violence is an enormous and complex problem, he said.

N.C. Rep. Graig Meyer (D-Caswell, Orange)said young people have been the driving force behind efforts to address gun laws and other safety laws.

“I think the young people also see how it's so much bigger than just access to guns,” he said. “We do need to have more safety around guns but we also need to have a more healthy, more supportive, more inclusive society with better relationships, less family tensions, less workplace tensions.”

He said in North Carolina, Republicans have not been willing to take on any reasonable gun safety legislation. 

In March, the N.C. General Assembly overrode Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto and repealed a state requirement that North Carolina residents obtain a permit before purchasing a handgun.

“That eliminates the pistol permit process and makes it much easier for people to get pistols that are the most likely type to be used in one-on-one interpersonal violence, like what happened yesterday,” Meyer said. 

T.J. White, president of UNC Young Democrats, said the next steps to prevent further tragedies include advocating at the state and local levels. He added that pushing for change at the federal level creates a baseline for gun safety. 

“For Young Dems, that means policy advocacy, advocating for permits, background checks, for a ban of assault-style weapons and also electing public officials or supporters of gun safety policy,” he said. 

He said he believes events like those that occurred on Aug. 28 are preventable and not anomalies. 

“It’s been a roller coaster of emotions,” he said. “I think underlying all that, it’s been a state of shock. I felt that way coming out of lockdown and I still feel that way now.” 

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) – who has fought federal attempts to strengthen gun control – said on X that the scenes from UNC were heartbreaking and that no student, teacher or parent should have to live through it.

“We must all continue to work together to protect our schools, confront the nation’s mental health crisis and keep firearms out of the wrong hands,” he wrote on the social media platform.

N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland, Rutherford), who voted for the pistol permit repeal, said on X that his prayers are with the students and staff at UNC. He also said he is thankful for the officers and first responders on campus who acted quickly to secure the scene and apprehend the shooter.


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Lucy Marques

Lucy Marques is a 2023-24 assistant city & state editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She was previously a city & state senior writer. Lucy is a junior pursuing a double major in political science and Hispanic literatures and cultures.

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