Staying Sane: Gun Laws that Work
This is a guest column written by Jennifer E. Copeland of the North Carolina Council of Churches.
The Mother Emmanuel, Charleston, SC, shooting was four years ago today, June 17. The N.C. General Assembly Senate Judiciary Committee will consider Senate Bill 90 tomorrow, June 18. A favorable ruling will move this bill closer to becoming law in N.C.
Studies show that more guns mean more shootings. Senate Bill 90 allows for more guns. Under current N.C. law, a pistol purchase permit (obtained from your local sheriff) allows a buyer to purchase one handgun within a 5-year period. To buy another handgun, the buyer needs another permit, which would then also be good for 5 years. SB90 will allow the same person to buy an unlimited number of handguns with only one permit and one background check over the course of 7 years. Yes, it’s still a permit, but not as thorough as what we currently have.
In addition to providing updated information on people who carry handguns, our current law closes the gun show/private seller loophole. Federal background checks only apply to guns bought from federally licensed dealers. Our system, however, requires a would-be pistol owner to apply for a permit and undergo a background check for each weapon. A buyer must have this permit to purchase a handgun in N.C., even at gun shows and for online purchases. Without our pistol purchase permit system, anyone could buy a handgun from a private seller online or at a gun show (20% of the national gun market is through private sales), no questions asked, no background check performed.
As of now in N.C., we are doing our part to regulate this piece of the industry by helping our law enforcement officials keep handguns out of the wrong hands and alert them when someone plans to purchase a large number of guns. The rights of responsible gun owners are not threatened by such laws. Those who should not own guns, whether temporarily or permanently, are appropriately questioned.
The Mother Emanuel shooting, and those like it before and since, is a headline grabbing tragedy. The real tragedy about gun violence in this country, however, is even worse. 60% of gun deaths are suicides. 37% of gun deaths are homicides. All told, gun deaths last year were nearly 40,000, higher in states like Kansas that have fewer gun owner restrictions and lower in places like New York that have tighter regulations.
When individual rights are at odds with community safety, our faith dictates that we lean toward community safety. Biblically speaking, individual rights are seldom privileged. Instead, the Bible privileges a covenant community where each one is concerned about everyone else. “Love God, love your neighbor,” occurs in a variety of places, nuanced many ways, throughout scripture. In other words, my rights are not more important than the safety of my community.
If gun deaths were a bacterial infection, we’d unleash the full force of our medical research capacity to conquer the outbreak. It’s time to unleash the full force of preventative regulations for gun laws. SB90 moves us the wrong way. Please join the North Carolina Council of Churches in urging our law makers not to undo the good gun laws we currently have in place. Call your state Senator today. Our community responsibility demands nothing less.