In the days after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which left 19 children and two teachers dead, some of North Carolina’s top politicians couldn’t be more split on gun control.
Opinion split down familiar partisan lines, with Democrats calling for more gun regulations and Republicans focusing instead on mental health treatment and school security.
“Our despair is deep for the Robb Elementary School children and their families. We’ve seen it too many times. Mass shootings. Easy-to-get military assault weapons. Teachers turning themselves into human shields. Children murdered,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a video released Wednesday.
The governor, a Democrat, called for more gun control laws from Congress and the North Carolina General Assembly.
“Republican leaders in Congress and in our state legislature need to stop the excuses and work with us to do more,” he said.
“A strong Universal Background Checks law is now sitting in the U.S. Senate. Pass it and the President will sign it. And while they’re at it, they should ban assault weapons,” Cooper said. “Until they do, state legislators should close North Carolina’s permit loophole for these weapons. Pass it and I’ll sign it.”
On the other side, a spokesman for Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson said he still plans to speak at the annual convention of the National Rifle Association in Houston, Texas, on Friday.
“The shooting in Uvalde, Texas was evil – pure and simple. The parents and family members who are without their loved ones and grieving – we are praying for you, and we grieve with you,” Robinson said in a statement.
“No parent should have to fear that when they drop off their child in the morning, they won’t be coming home that afternoon. As a father, I know the love a parent has for their child, and I can only imagine the pain of losing a child in such a horrendous event,” he said.
Robinson, a member of the NRA board, will be joined by former President Donald Trump, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Sen. Ted Cruz and other speakers at the NRA forum Friday afternoon.
The gun lobby, including the NRA, has long donated to politicians, mostly Republicans, who support gun rights. North Carolina Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr have received millions from the NRA, according to the Brady Campaign, a gun-control advocacy group.
In this election cycle, North Carolina Rep. Richard Hudson has received more than $18,000 so far from the gun lobby, according to Open Secrets, a nonpartisan organization that tracks campaign finance. That puts Hudson in the top 10 list for politicians receiving money from the gun lobby, Open Secrets said.
North Carolina’s representatives in Congress have been similarly split.
“‘Thoughts and prayers’ mean nothing if we don’t follow them with action,” Rep. Deborah Ross, a Wake County Democrat, said on Twitter Wednesday. “We can’t let common sense gun violence prevention legislation continue to stall in partisan battles. We have the power to prevent these tragedies.”
“We must take action – at the state and federal level – to combat the epidemic of gun violence in this country,” she said in a separate tweet.
Rep. David Rouzer, a Republican representing the southeastern corner of North Carolina, offered his own “thoughts and prayers” on Twitter. But he pointed to another cause for school shootings: “This was a troubled 18 year old filled with evil.”
“As I have said regarding other school shootings in the past, we have a crisis of the heart & mind among some of our youth in this country stemming from what I believe to be a moral & spiritual crisis that must be addressed,” Rouzer said.
“Troubled individuals aren’t born with a heart filled with hate and evil. It’s acquired over time based on what they absorb reading, watching, and experiencing,” he said.
On Thursday, Senate Democrats called a vote on the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, which would create offices at the Department of Justice, FBI and Homeland Security to focus on domestic terrorism. It would also focus more federal law enforcement on assessing threats from neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
The bill passed the House of Representatives last week after the last mass shooting in a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, on essentially a party-line vote. In the Senate, one Republican joined the Democrats in voting for the bill, but they were 10 votes short of being able to get over the 60-vote requirement to get past the filibuster.
The past two weeks, the nation has seen the aftermaths of mass shootings from Buffalo, San Diego and Uvalde. Efforts at gun control in Washington D.C. and Raleigh continue to be locked in a partisan divide.