Will Durham Choose Control Over Common Sense?

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posted on November 24, 2020
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James Willamor courtesy Flickr

Facing a spike in violent crimes in his city, Durham, N.C., Mayor Steve Schewel (D) recently asked his state’s political leadership to enact more gun control. The thing is, what Schewel wants won’t reduce violent crime in Durham, but will only make it harder for law-abiding citizens to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

“Gun violence continues to plague Durham, which looks for help from within and outside,” reported WRAL.com. “So far this year, 823 shootings have been reported in Durham, a 42 percent jump from a year ago. The number of people wounded in those shootings has almost doubled, from 130 to 250, although the number killed has dropped slightly, from 29 to 24.”

Schewel wants the North Carolina General Assembly “to enact more gun control legislation, such as universal background checks, a ‘red flag’ law to temporarily take firearms away from people deemed to pose a danger to themselves or others and allowing cities to prohibit carrying weapons in restaurants, bars and parks.”

“As long as guns are available in [large] quantities and as long as they are easily available to anyone who wants a gun, we are not going to be able to end gun violence,” Schewel said.

However, in a news conference where Durham officials discussed “gun violence,” Durham Chief of Police C.J. Davis noted that these shootings were mostly caused by drug gangs. Basically, rival gangs are fighting with illegal guns.

“In these most-recent incidents, it cannot go unnoticed as well that the majority of these offenders are juveniles…,” and that, “many of the shootings that occur in the city are being committed by a small number of individuals,” said Davis.

So how, exactly, would “universal” background checks, a red-flag law, and stopping concealed carry in restaurants and parks by law-abiding citizens stop violent gang members from murdering each other? As Chief Davis noted, most of these offenders are juveniles, and so are too young to purchase a handgun in the first place.

The minimum age to apply for a permit to purchase a handgun is 21 years of age in North Carolina. That’s right, North Carolina has its own form of “universal” background checks for handguns, and has had it in place for about a century. All handgun transfers in the state can only be made, lawfully, when accompanied by a permit issued by the sheriff in the county in which the purchaser resides, unless that purchaser possesses a permit to carry a concealed firearm, also issued by the sheriff. Not that the juvenile gang members care—or even apply for either permit.

There is, of course, no evidence to indicate that this permit process for simply acquiring a handgun has done anything to prevent violent criminals from obtaining them, and the system itself is may-issue (rather than the shall-issue standard for a permit to carry a concealed firearm), allowing sheriffs a certain amount of discretion when determining if they will issue a permit. NRA has worked to repeal this law—a holdover that was enacted during the South’s Jim Crow era—for many years because, in part, of this discretion.

As has been proven, time and again, most criminals get their guns through illegal means, often either by theft, or by purchasing stolen firearms through street-level black market transactions. They don’t buy guns through legal channels.

Expanding “universal” background checks in North Carolina to also encompass rifles and shotguns—which is really what the mayor of Durham wants—would be an abject failure in addressing the problem of violent crime, as has been the requirement that pistol purchasers acquire a permit.

With this in mind, if North Carolina were to also “red flag” a gang member as dangerous to himself and/or society, how would this stop him from acquiring a gun? The logic is laughable.

These people are already breaking numerous laws by simply possessing firearms and carrying them, not to mention using them in gang-related shootouts.

As for imposing new prohibitions on where a carry permit holder may lawfully carry a firearm for personal protection, again, this will have zero impact on criminals, other than instilling them with greater confidence that they will face victims unable to defend themselves when those criminals target these “gun-free” areas. Criminals don’t acquire carry permits, and they simply don’t obey gun laws.

Interestingly, Chief Davis requested that more officers focus on anti-gang work last summer. The Durham City Council rejected her request, a move that disturbed retired deputy chief Larry Smith.

“When the chief comes out and asks for more officers and it’s denied, those things tell the officers, listen, some of the council is just not interested in supporting you in what you do,” said Smith, who serves as a spokesman for the Durham Fraternal Order of Police. “I personally think what would have an immediate effect on crime is getting the officers you do have to be more proactive again, and that’s really going to require a council, quite frankly, that is willing to come out and support officers and say, ‘We have a real problem right now.’”

This is a real problem, one that certainly won’t be solved by making it harder for law-abiding citizens to practice their Second Amendment rights.

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