Editorial Roundup: North Carolina

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

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April 13

The Greensboro News & Record on gun violence:

It would be understandable if some wished that we could return to stricter sequestration. Not only because we’d be safer from the risk of COVID, but because, especially at this time last year, several societal problems seemed blessedly diminished — including gun violence.

On Sunday, in Brooklyn Center, Minn., a police officer shot and killed a man after he’d been stopped for an expired registration. The officer says she meant to use her Taser, not her gun, which she said she pulled by accident.

On Monday in Knoxville, Tenn., a scant 274 miles away, a high school student was killed and a police officer was injured after the student fired at officers who approached him.

In Greensboro on Monday, a Winston-Salem man was fatally shot. Not to mention the record year in homicides in Greensboro in 2020, most of them shootings, that have continued at a troubling rate into 2021.

These follow a mass shooting in Boulder, Colo., on March 22, that killed 10 people and a shooting in Atlanta on March 16 in which eight were killed.

They are unrelated incidents — every shooting is unique — except for one key ingredient: a firearm

According to Education Week’s school shooting tracker, there were 25 school shootings in 2019; 10 in 2020 — likely reduced because of sequestration — and four so far in 2021.

How we wish that number would remain low — but it seems so likely, so predictable, that it will not. This is the country that refuses to fight gun violence.

Earlier this month, President Biden announced a series of modest executive actions that he hoped would set the stage for a significant change in U.S. gun policy. He said: “Gun violence in this country is an epidemic. And it’s an international embarrassment. My job, the job of any president is to protect the American people.”

He noted that Congress had not passed “a single new federal law to reduce gun violence.”

He’s right. Congress has failed, over and over again, to act.

He’s also right that it’s an international embarrassment that the country that calls itself “the greatest” has failed to protect its own citizens from so much gun violence. The rest of the world, even those who admire us, shakes its collective head and wonders what’s wrong with the Americans that they are so in love with guns.

We know the standard responses. “It’s not guns that kill people … .” “You want to take guns from law-abiding citizens … .” “We have a Second Amendment right.”

None of those bumper-sticker slogans reduce gun violence.

And we know that any attempt to make gun use safer — from red-flag laws to 48-hour delays in purchasing firearms to simple registration — to save lives is portrayed by an artificial outrage industry as an attack on the Second Amendment and the American way of life.

And we know that this level of gun violence is unique to the United States. It doesn’t occur in Australia, New Zealand, France, Spain, England, Norway, Japan, Canada and other advanced nations.

Those countries have mental illness. They have disgruntled employees. They have violent video games and movies. They have criminals. They have everything we have — except easy access to guns.

The Second Amendment should not be a suicide pact.

We don’t claim to have all the answers. But solutions exist and we as a nation should unite to find them. We should demand that our political leaders find the best minds in the country — in the world — and put them to work solving this epidemic. And if they don’t, they should be voted out of office.

But to say we should do nothing is to accept that children in America will be killed in the name of freedom. It’s to accept that drivers’ lives will be put at risk when police stop them for minor infractions. It’s to accept that people who are too unstable or too criminal to have access to firearms will.

And it’s to accept the possibility that one day, it may be our own children who are in the line of fire.

Online: https://greensboro.com/

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April 13

The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer on “red flag” gun laws:

They’re called “red flag” bills – proposals to confiscate the guns of mentally unstable people – but in North Carolina they end up more like white flag bills.

Lawmakers propose the change, then have to surrender to Republican opposition. Gun rights advocates worry that this sensible – indeed urgent – call to take guns from people who have been deemed a threat to themselves or others would take away firearms without sufficient due process and would encourage further restrictions on the right to bear arms.

Nonetheless, Democrats have decided to persist in calling for North Carolina to adopt a red flag law, just as 19 states and Washington, D.C., have done. Three Democrats, Reps. Marcia Morey of Durham, John Autry, of Charlotte, and Grier Martin, of Wake County, filed House Bill 525 on April 8, the same day President Joe Biden called for new limits on firearms.

Martin concedes that gaining enough Republican support to pass the measure is unlikely – similar bills failed in 2018 and 2019 – but he thinks it is useful to keep pressing an issue that the public supports and Republicans may soon have to acknowledge.

“It’s very important to keep this conversation going,” Martin told the Editorial Board. He said House Bill 525 shows there is a way to protect people without curtailing Second Amendment rights “and this is exactly what it would look like.”

The law would allow a family member, a current or former spouse or partner, law enforcement or a health-care provider to request an extreme risk protection order (ERPO), a court order similar to those issued in domestic violence cases. The ERPO would allow guns to be temporarily confiscated from someone deemed a danger to themselves or others. A court hearing in which all involved parties can participate would determine whether the order is to be lifted or extended.

The wisdom of this process is obvious. The U.S. is awash in guns and shootings ranging from domestic violence to mass shootings represent what Biden called an “epidemic” and “a national embarrassment.”

Recent mass shootings in Atlanta, Boulder, Col., and Rock Hill, S.C., called fresh attention to gun violence. But red flag laws have their greatest effect on more commonplace types of gun violence, domestic violence and suicide, which accounts for the majority of U.S. gun deaths.

Jeffrey Swanson, a Duke University sociologist and professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences, said in a 2019 Washington Post op-ed that while mass shootings spark calls for red flag laws, the laws once put into practice are most often applied to people who are thought to be suicidal.

The professor wrote that taking away guns can have a significant effect on suicide deaths.

“People who try to end their lives by other means usually survive; if they use a gun, there is almost never a second chance,” Swanson wrote. “This is why a mere shift in the distribution of suicide methods — away from guns to more survivable means — could save many lives.”

While rare, he added, a red-flag intervention involving a suicidal person might also stop someone who is planning a mass shooting.

This session House Bill 525 may not make it into law. But the Democrats sense that a breakthrough will come. Martin said the “intractable logjam” blocking modest gun safety measures may give way quickly, similar to the change on the once polarizing issue of same-sex marriage. “The public seems to be getting closer and closer on that sort of shift on safety,” he said.

There’s every reason to think North Carolinians would be better off if family members, police and the courts had more authority to intervene when people with guns appear to be an immediate danger to themselves or others.

Republicans in other states have supported red flag laws. North Carolina Republicans should, too.

Online: https://www.newsobserver.com/ & https://www.charlotteobserver.com/

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April 12

The Winston-Salem Journal on former Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr.'s comments on receiving the COVID-19 vaccine:

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Last week, former Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. tweeted that he’s received his first Moderna vaccination. He then urged those he knows to follow his example in rather unique fashion:

“Please get vaccinated so our nutcase of a Governor will have less reasons for mindless restrictions!”

First of all, “fewer” is the word Falwell seeks.

But more importantly, while white evangelicals and Republican men have reportedly expressed a high degree of reluctance to be vaccinated, Falwell has illuminated what we’ve tried so hard to keep secret — that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is the enemy of freedom, just like N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper, President Joe Biden and the other members of the “Democrat Party” who have been pushing safety precautions — including the liberal mainstream media.

But now it appears Falwell is on to us. We may as well ’fess up.

Wearing masks? Standing 6 feet apart? Closing businesses? Sequestering in safety? And now, the possibility of requiring “vaccine passports”? It’s all been part of a communist or fascist, whatever you want to call it, plot to enforce mindless restrictions. Yep, that’s it, that’s why. Sure, millions of people around the world — more than half a million Americans — have died from the virus, that’s true, but we only used that information to our own advantage to limit freedoms. We love to limit freedoms. For some reason even we don’t understand.

We even tried some of that reverse psychology, urging people to get vaccinated while knowing that freedom-lovers would rebel against the conventional wisdom. And it worked: Fewer vaccinations, more mindless restrictions.

But now, Falwell has revealed the truth. Evangelicals and Republicans can defeat our liberal agenda by getting vaccinated. If some 90% or 95% of the population is vaccinated and the population achieves herd immunity, we’ll have no more excuses; we’ll just have to let everything open up again and life will return to normal.

Of course, we were afraid that vaccinations would become more popular among conservatives when it was revealed that former President Trump and former first lady Melania Trump had been vaccinated back in January. Fortunately, for their own reasons, they kept that info on the downlow.

Then, in February, when Trump spoke at CPAC and said, “Everybody, go get your shot,” we expected droves to follow his advice. We were afraid we’d lost. And in March, when he told Fox News, “It is a safe vaccine and it is something that works,” we were sure that the game was over. But fortunately, he was more concerned with his lost election than with the life-saving power of the vaccines and that detail was lost. Swamped.

We were also shaking in our Birkenstocks on April 5 when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urged Republican men specifically to be vaccinated. “I saw on some program last week that Republican men, curiously enough, might be reluctant to take the vaccine,” he said. “I’m a Republican man and I want to say to everyone, we need to take this vaccine.”

Fortunately, for whatever reason, he didn’t point to the best, truest, most American motive for vaccination — that it would allow Republicans to own the libs.

But now that Falwell has revealed the truth, we have no more excuses. The way out of this horror has now been revealed to all.

Go ahead, get vaccinated and beat us. We’ll just have to look for other ways to help keep people alive.

That is, we mean, to restrict freedoms.

Online: https://journalnow.com/