GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – The Triad’s representatives in Congress and the U.S. Senate are taking varying positions about how lawmakers should respond to another tragic school shooting in Texas – and mass shootings in general.
But, as you might predict, those variances are pretty much along political lines, with Democrats talking about stricter access to guns and even outright bans and Republicans disdaining those positions and saying, when it comes to schools, making them more armed and less penetrable are the keys.
After another mass shooting at a medical facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Wednesday night, a House committee in Washington was called back from recess to consider Democratic proposals, and a group of ad hoc senators was discussing ideas that might get bipartisan traction.
President Joe Biden addressed the nation on Thursday night and made a plea for a renewal of the expired ban against assault weapons, such as the AR-15s used to kill 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, shoppers at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, and employees of the medical office in Tulsa.
Even after North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson lit a political firecracker with his position on assault weapons, when you boil down all that is being said, not much is being done, no matter the side of the fence on which you stand.
Democrats typically argue for stricter background checks, age limits on who can buy some guns, red-flag laws for mental health issues, limitations on some aspects of weaponry and even outright bans on assault weapons. Republicans tend to focus on mental health, arming schools with guards or weaponry and tightening building security.
Rep. Richard Hudson (R-Concord), who represents the 8th District and is the GOP nominee in the new 9th District, which includes Randolph County, is decrying efforts to limit access to guns and is suggesting schools be hardened.
Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance), who represents the 13th District and is the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate, sides with Hudson and supports his bill.
Rep. David Price (D-Durham), who is retiring as the representative in the 4th District, which next year will include Alamance County, said he is for much stricter gun controls but is willing to compromise with Republicans if something he called “positive” could be done to stymie the flow of guns to people who shouldn’t have them.
Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro) of the 6th District offered a less-extreme position but bemoaned how nothing was getting done. Current 9th District Rep. Dan Bishop (R-Charlotte), who is the nominee in the new 8th District (which includes Montgomery and Davidson counties) this fall, got into at least one argument with a colleague about gun measures, and Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-Banner Elk) of the 5th District, typically a party hardliner, didn’t say much at all – at least publicly.
Meanwhile North Carolina’s two Republican senators, Thom Tillis and retiring Richard Burr, didn’t respond to surveys of senators’ views by The New York Times and PBS News Hour. Burr is No. 2 ($6.987 million) and Tillis is No. 4 ($4.421 million) on the list of GOP senators who have received the most in campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association.
Tillis has made some comments about guns and Uvalde and by some reports has been included among a bipartisan group of senators who say they have been discussing responses that could gain broader traction.
Toughen up schools
Hudson issued a public complaint after the meeting Thursday of the House Judiciary Committee to review a Democratic proposal to tighten gaps in gun laws that Democrats say would help to prevent mass shootings.
“I am disappointed and frustrated that today’s Judiciary markup has been a missed opportunity to achieve real progress,” Hudson said in a release on Thursday night. “House Republicans want to save children’s lives and have come to the table with real solutions.
“Protecting children in schools should be our top priority, but President Biden’s press secretary said ‘that is not something he believes in.’
“Washington Democrats are ignoring the need to harden schools and improve mental health services so we can intervene with these young people before they reach a breaking point.
“They are focused on advancing a radical gun control agenda that only targets law-abiding citizens. I am focused on solutions that build on the STOP School Violence Act to fund school resource officers and mental health, close loopholes in school security, and better equip law enforcement to address threats from an active shooter.”
The bill he calls STOPII would provide additional funding to assess schools for security weakness, locate gaps in mental health services, hire school resource officers and mental health guidance counselors and harden schools. It also would create a clearinghouse to identify best practices for school security.
That’s the bill that Budd, whose family owns a gun shop and range in Advance, supports. “Every school in North Carolina and across the country should have all the resources they need to keep our students and teachers safe,” he said on his website. “The right way to do that is to boost funding for competitive grant programs that help schools afford what they need to harden themselves from outside threats.”
But Price, who is ending a 15-year career in Congress, asked questions about why there couldn’t be a broader approach to the problem that includes gun measures. He decried the politics. He and Manning talked about compromise.
“Why do Republican governors, Republican members of Congress, and Republican senators hide behind the guise of protecting the Constitution instead of taking any action to save the lives of children in this country?,” Price wrote in an op-ed piece for The News & Observer in Raleigh. “As for the U.S. Constitution, all of the measures under debate are consistent with the Second Amendment under current court interpretations. I recognize that I may support more restrictive gun control measures than some of my conservative colleagues may like, but I’m prepared to compromise if they are. I call on them now: Put your ideas on the table — ideas for keeping guns out of the wrong hands and taking military-grade weapons out of circulation.”
Said Manning in a statement shortly after the shooting in Uvalde: “We must decide that we are willing to take action to prevent guns deaths, and we must start by taking commonsense steps that the vast majority of Americans support,” she said. “In Congress, I’ve voted for bipartisan legislation to implement background checks and red flag laws, to close the Charleston Loophole, and to make our schools, houses of worship, malls, entertainment venues, and streets free from deadly gun violence. Senate Republicans refuse to vote for these commonsense measures. … We must take action and enact solutions now.”
Burr and Tillis have been largely quiet on this issue, but since he announced plans to retire, Burr has taken fewer aggressive positions on policy. The Times, in its survey, found only five GOP senators who would say they were “open or undecided” on gun-control adjustments: Susan Collins (Maine), John Cornyn (Texas), Kevin Cramer (North Dakota), Mitt Romney (Utah) and Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania).
Politico reported that Tillis was among a bipartisan group of about 10 senators who met via Zoom to discuss a potential package of gun measures. Tillis was reported to have met separately and virtually with Cornyn, Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), outspoken gun critic.
When Tillis was asked about raising the age to 21 for buying assault rifles, he said: “When I think of that, I think, do we take a look at the age you can enlist in the military? So there are a lot of complexities to that question.”