On The Heels Of Tragedy, Local Lawmakers Talk Gun Control & Mental Health

Gun Debate

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. - Over the weekend, another unfortunate tragedy – added to the list of mass shootings in the last five years: 26 people gunned down at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Sunday’s shooting comes just 35 days after the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, in Las Vegas.

After such high-profile attacks involving gun violence, the debate about gun laws starts again. It is discussed on the national and local levels.

“No other industrialized country faces the kind of gun violence that our country faces seemingly on a daily basis,” said Representative Pricey Harrison. She said she first got the wake-up call after the Sandy Hook shooting almost five years ago.

But as a democrat - she says it has been difficult to push for gun control in the past - and that many in the North Carolina State House recently opted to loosen the restrictions.

“Last year there was an attempt to allow guns in the legislative building, which just sounds like a terrible idea,” she said, “Eliminating the permitting for concealed carry - it stalled in the Senate eventually but it did pass the House last year so mostly what we've been doing is playing a lot of defense.”

Representative Jon Hardister, the Majority Whip, says it's complicated. He believes the focus needs to be on mental health services, which he admits, are lacking.

“It can be tricky there because we do have a Second Amendment right,” he said, “What if a person is misdiagnosed as having a mental health issue? There are some complications there. But it is worth talking about.”

Here's what both sides of the aisle seem to agree on: first - expanding background checks for gun purchases, and secondly, limiting access to and use of high power assault rifles. On these two items, these representatives believe there can be compromise.

“I think that if we talk about it, particularly the mental health issue, I think we can make some progress,” said Rep. Hardister.

“I think it's going to be an incremental effort here to just convince our colleagues on the other side of the aisle that this is important legislation that so it will be a multi-year process,” said Rep. Harrison. 

Copyright 2017 WFMY


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