North Carolina Black Alliance, North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, Emancipate NC, and Fayetteville PACT applaud Governor Cooper for vetoing House Bill 398, Pistol Purchase Permit Repeal.

In his veto statement, Cooper said “At a time of rising gun violence, we cannot afford to repeal a system that works to save lives. The legislature should focus on combating gun violence instead of making it easier for guns to end up in the wrong hands.

“2020 was the most violent year in the 21st century in our state,” said North Carolinians Against Gun Violence Executive Director Becky Ceartas. “Gun deaths, excluding suicides, rose by 31% in 2020 compared to 2019, and repealing our pistol purchase permitting system will surely mean the loss of more lives.”

There is clear evidence that repealing this law would be a dangerous and harmful change. In the years after Missouri repealed its handgun permit-to-purchase law in 2007, firearm homicide rates were 47% higher and firearm suicide rates were 24% higher, compared to controls. Conversely, Connecticut’s permit-to-purchase law, passed in 1995, was associated with 28% lower firearm homicide rates compared to control, and 33% lower firearm suicide rates compared to control, over the 22 years after it passed.

“We cannot afford to be like Missouri,” said Becky Ceartas. “Lawmakers must sustain Governor Cooper’s veto to preserve our Pistol Purchase Permitting system. Lives are on the line.”

Unfortunately, the GOP leadership launched a campaign to undermine the state’s life-saving Pistol Purchase Permit law by calling it racist. These outrageous claims, and their efforts to repeal public safety laws in North Carolina, are as dangerous as they are hypocritical.

In reality, African Americans in North Carolina are disproportionately impacted by gun violence, which is the leading cause of death for Black children and young men in the state. Though Black, Non-Hispanic North Carolinians comprised 22.1% of the 2018 N.C. population, they experienced 67.1% of the firearm homicide deaths. This violence is the result of systemic inequities and racism, compounded by firearms that are often trafficked into the most impacted neighborhoods. The current permitting system helps to prevent the diversion of illegal firearms into the communities most suffering from daily gun violence. Taking away one of the few laws that disproportionately saves Black lives from gun violence is the only act of racism here.

Dawn Blagrove, Executive Director of Emancipate NC puts it plainly “Contrary to what Republican legislators seem to think, Black people are not stupid. The statement released to support ending the safety net of pistol permits is incredibly insulting and condescending. We need them to bring this same energy to holding law enforcement accountable and ending systemic racism. Republican legislators, claiming commitment to righting historically racist policies, should start with ensuring we have fair electoral districts and equal access to the ballot box. The lunacy of repealing our Pistol Purchase Perming system helping Black communities is breathtakingly absurd. Shame on the Republican Party for attempting to gaslight Black Carolinians and for this pathetic attempt at co-opting the language of our movement.“

“Unfortunately, there are some senators that falsely claim that this system is not saving lives and is racist. This is absolutely not true. We know that in large urban counties, pistol purchase laws were associated with an 11% reduction in firearm homicides” says Kathy Greeks, Executive Director of Fayetteville PACT.

If Republican legislators truly cared about addressing racial disparities, they would approve the Governor’s budget which invests millions in criminal justice reform efforts to address the legacy of racist policies in North Carolina. They can provide $15 million to fund community violence intervention programs. And they would cease their decades-long effort to disenfranchise Black voters, such as racist gerrymandering and voter photo ID requirements.

Instead, North Carolina’s Republican leadership routinely opposes laws that would dismantle racist structures of oppression. They have strategically worked to erase discussion of the state’s role in perpetuating racism by attempting to remove topics such as slavery from school curricula. “Let us be clear, their opposition to the PPP law is not based on a desire to promote racial equity; it is based on their desire to appease the gun lobby and undermine North Carolina’s gun safety laws,” said Marcus Bass Deputy Director of North Carolina Black Alliance.

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