On the anniversary of the nation’s deadliest mass shooting, a demand for NC leaders to do better
Yesterday, October 1st, was the sixth anniversary of perhaps the most horrific mass shooting in American history. As if it were a war zone, 58 people were killed and almost 900 more were wounded as a sniper opened fire on attendees at a music festival.
And sadly, as has been the case with other mass shootings in our country, the tragedy gave rise to little in the way of meaningful action, and even spurred the spread of outrageous lies and conspiracy claims from an array of gun rights defenders and cynical political opportunists – including in some instances, prominent and aspiring public figures.
Here in North Carolina, for instance, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson – then still a private citizen – actually sought to cast doubt on the disaster, posting on his Facebook page that he was “SERIOUSLY skeptical” about what happened in Las Vegas. It was a remarkable, irresponsible, and dangerous act for any person – but especially for someone who would soon successfully seek to become one of the highest-ranking elected officials in our state.
As the executive director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence Action Fund, I have talked to people throughout our state whose lives have been devastated by gun violence. It is our imperative to work to prevent suicides, homicides, mass shootings, school shootings, accidental shootings, and domestic violence. Unfortunately, the statistics are grim. The year 2021 was the most violent year of the 21st century in North Carolins, with 1,839 gun related deaths; and provisional data for 2022 suggests that levels of violence remain near all-time highs. Guns are now the leading cause of injury deaths for children and youth in our state.
At a time when gun violence is at a record setting high, it’s imperative that our elected leaders fight for gun violence prevention policies and programs and stand up against our biggest block to reform, the National Rifle Association (NRA). Sadly, however, several of our state’s top officials continue to do the NRA’s bidding and lead us in the opposite direction.
Both Senators Thom Tillis and Ted Budd are among the top U.S. Senate recipients of NRA money. Mark Robinson, is on the board of the NRA and another major recipient of NRA campaign cash. Several other prominent conservative politicians were also big recipients.
These politicians and the NRA oppose common sense gun violence prevention policies such as universal background checks. We know the public is with us, as 89% of North Carolina voters support universal background checks.
This sobering fact has been on display at the General Assembly this year where state lawmakers passed laws to further weaken gun safety laws. Meanwhile, even an extremely modest proposal to merely fund a program to provide free gunlocks could not gain traction.
Amazingly, Robinson actually has a long history of viciously mocking and attacking school shooting survivors. In 2018, he accused the student survivors of the Parkland, Florida mass shooting of being actors and called them “spoiled, angry, know it all CHILDREN,” “stupid kids,” and “media prosti-tots.”
In the wake of the recent shooting at UNC, some lawmakers (like state House Speaker Tim Moore) are suggesting that more guns on campus will make students, faculty, and staff safer. However, research clearly shows that allowing guns on campuses does not increase safety, and in fact, can lead to dangerous consequences. And anyone who has been on a college campus can see that adding guns to the mix of young people, alcohol, and high emotions is a poor idea.
The harebrained idea of carrying a gun on college campuses is yet another policy that the NRA advocates for across the country. It’s clear that accepting NRA campaign cash and/or serving on the NRA board represent direct conflicts of interest with promoting the safety of all North Carolinians.
As our kids are enduring lockdown after lockdown, we don’t need more NRA-backed policies or politicians who won’t stand up to the gun lobby or support reform. We dishonor the Las Vegas victims and the thousands of others who’ve died from senseless gun violence every day we allow the absurd policies favored by the NRA and the politicians it funds to prevail. In 2024, all North Carolinians of good will and common sense must rally to deliver this message.