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Column: Dear politicians, thoughts and prayers aren't enough

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper answers a question during a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic in Raleigh, North Carolina, on May 26, 2020. Photo Courtesy of Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer/TNS.

On March 29, the N.C. General Assembly voted to override Gov. Roy Cooper's veto on Senate Bill 41. The bill repealed the requirement to obtain a permit from a local sheriff before purchasing a handgun.

On Monday, a man armed with a 9mm handgun was present on our campus, resulting in chaos, confusion and most tragic of all — death.

Politicians took to the internet to release statements about the event the day of. 

“No student, faculty member, or parent should ever have to experience the terrifying tragedy that UNC faced today,” Rep. Valerie Foushee (D-NC 4th), posted in a statement on X.

N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland, Rutherford) posted on X, “Today, we grieve the innocent loss of one of our own and the violence that has shaken the UNC community. I am thankful for the officers and first responders on campus who acted swiftly to secure the scene and apprehend the shooter.” 

“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,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) said in a statement on X.

I take these words from our politicians, no matter how well-intentioned, with a grain of salt. Because as much as thoughts, prayers and words help, they mean nothing compared to the impact real policy change and action would have.

Among the responses, those that attributed the events of Monday to a mental health crisis were the most disturbing. Centering this issue around mental health, or anything else besides what it really is — a gun problem — is problematic. Yes, we have a mental health crisis in this country, but we also have a gun control problem. It is past time politicians stop trying to mesh the two issues and instead handle them both with appropriate and separate legislation.

It is disgusting that six months after S.B. 41 became law, this tragedy occurred. It is disgusting, but it also feels directly related — and makes me wonder if it all could have been avoided.

I can not help but feel sick at this thought. It makes me sick that on March 29, Republicans celebrated S.B. 41 on X, with the state party posting: “After years of Cooper pretending he's a King, with the Left's jesters calling the shots for him, the People of North Carolina have ended his veto streak and reaffirmed core American rights in the process.” 

I wonder what could have been different if we actually practiced gun laws that protected people in this state. I wonder when the U.S. will start prioritizing actual lives over the outdated and violent Second Amendment. 

The fact that this was able to happen and the fact that this could happen again is terrifying. The fear I feel just walking around campus now, which I’m sure other students are sharing, should not be a reality. We should not have to live like this. And we don’t have to. 

I wonder if Monday’s events will even open the eyes of North Carolina policymakers, or if in a couple of months, everyone will go back to pretending like there is not a pressing issue that is killing people every single day.


@dthopinion |

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article mistakenly listed Rep. Valerie Foushee (D-NC 4th) as a Republican. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.

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